They came from all over by the thousands. They traveled for miles. Some of them even came from neighboring countries. They walked, rode motorcycles, piled into the back of pickup trucks, and crammed themselves into military transport vehicles. Although each individual was unique, they all shared the same intention and hope: the dream of sight.
In Paraguay, this dream was becoming a reality. Two organizations, OneSight and VOI (Vision Outreach International) teamed up to provide free eye care to those in need for two weeks this July. OneSight, an organization that is part of the Luxottica Foundation, is a charity dedicated to providing eye care, eyeglasses, and sun protection to people around the world. The OneSight team, consisting of about 40 people, held clinic in a large gym in Filadelfia, Paraguay. Working hard, the members of OneSight screen over 1,000 patients a day; distributing corrective eyeglasses and sunglasses to those in need, as well as referring patients for cataract surgery. By giving the simple gift of a pair of glasses, they are able to give these people back their sight and in some cases, their lives.
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For those patients who cannot be helped by a pair of glasses due to the presence of cataracts, the VOI team steps in to help. VOI is a Christian organization of ophthalmologists who specialize in doing cataract surgeries in developing countries around the world. Currently there are approximately 50 million people around the world who are either blind or visually impaired. Cataracts are the cause of nearly half of these, and they are completely curable. A cataract procedure is a standard procedure in the United States; therefore the cataracts are taken care of before causing too much blindness in the patient. However, these cataracts go untreated for years in developing countries, completely blinding people in some cases. When reduced to an extremely elementary level, the surgeon enters the eye, removes the cataract (cloudy lens,) and inserts an IOL (new clear lens implant.)
My dad is one of the ophthalmologists with VOI and I have had the incredible opportunity to be part of two VOI teams, including the one in Paraguay this summer. Our team consisted of 17 amazing people working together to restore the sight to around 200 patients, formerly blind from cataracts. Being able to be my dad's scrub in the operating room is an unbelievable experience. As his scrub nurse, I work with the instruments during surgery, giving him the proper ones when needed and witnessing first hand the miraculous healing to our patients.
Patients are seen for a brief post-op exam the following morning. It is at these post-ops that we can really begin to see the difference that we are able to make in these peoples' lives. We remove their patch and they look through that eye, seeing what they may not have been able to see for years. Although the result of the surgery improves in the first two weeks or so, you can tell that they are pleased by the expressions on their faces. For some, it is the slight upward turn of the end of the lips. For other, a full smile takes control of their face. After receiving their post-op kits and directions for taking care of their eye, we part ways knowing that we have made a difference in their lives.
They came from all over. They came for the gift of sight, and they received it. I am so glad to be a part of that.
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