A 70-year-old with cataracts? Not unusual. And with access to modern cataract surgery – quite treatable.
But what about a five-year-old born with cataracts? Not the norm. And in the Dominican Republic where access to modern eye surgery or even basic health care is not a given, what happens then?
When a five-year old girl who was born with cataracts in both eyes (meaning very poor vision from birth) came to seek care at the Instituto Oncologico Regional de Cibao in Santiago, a volunteer medical team was making its first visit to the area - one of the poorest provinces in the country. The team of 30 health care providers led by Dr. Marlet Bazemore and Dr. Jonathan Taylormoore, through Casa de Luz was providing free diagnostic services and eye surgeries with support from Americares Medical Outreach program. After the little girl was examined, a pediatric ophthalmology specialist on the team performed surgery to remove one of her cataracts.
Dr. Helen Yeung with the team described the result, “On the day when the patch was removed after the operation, she instinctively brought a toy ball to her nose to smell it because, previously, that was the only way she could recognize objects."
"In less than a minute, she moved the ball back from her face and looked at it, smiling as she realized that she could see for the first time in her life.”
Casa de Luz has provided free surgical and clinical eye care to thousands of very poor children and adults who would not otherwise have access to eye medical care. In addition to their 5-year-old cataract patient, the team saw a total of 400 people and performed 100 surgeries during their trip, treating a variety of common eye problems such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
Americares provided the medicine and supplies for the team including the critical anesthetics used in the cataract surgery – one of nearly 48,000 surgeries performed in 2016 by volunteer medical teams supported by Medical Outreach with medicine, supplies and education resources. Each year, these volunteer health care professionals treat nearly 700,000 patients, bringing quality care to people in approximately 80 countries while strengthening local health care institutions.