Day 6 in Peru
Again, I jumped on the small bus to the hospital while Reilly and others head to the clinic. They saw over four hundred patients again, almost 100 of them were children. Patients line up and sleep overnight in line to be seen. Knowing how frustrating it is when I can't read something because I don't have my reading glasses, I understand how receiving a simple pair of over the counter reading glasses can elate so many people. Others simply need bifocals. There seems to be a tremendous number of patients with high astigmatism. Because of the climate, many suffer with dry burning eyes. We give out thousands of sample lubricating drops. Our surgery schedule is booked for tomorrow so those seen in clinic today will have to wait until next year if they need surgery.
I head to the hospital and we again begin our day. The patients arrive and get prepped for surgery. The patients without sedation receive a lidocaine local block behind their eyes.
They lie still during the surgery without uttering a word. It is amazing that many fall asleep. I think it is because they have stayed up all night.
I still feel some trepidation as I begin surgery. These patients have put their faith in me and I don't want to disappoint them. Today goes well. Reilly comes over in the afternoon and observes cases.
We and the patients have a good time together.
The cataracts are hyper mature and the patients are blind. Removing such dense cataracts is particularly challenging.
I feel so privileged to play a small part in this wonderful mission.
Dr Bob Rice is the team lead. He is truly amazing. He has been on 55 missions over the years and has started his own clinic called Icare San Antonio. He organizes all of the equipment that needs to be transported and inventories everything. He is so encouraging to new team members and especially to me, being new to this new technique, small manual incision cataract surgery. He is truly an inspiring and amazing physician and person.
He is a gentle giant!
Many of the patients we see are Quechua, indigenous peoples of the Andes highlands. Quechua is an Amerind language with about 8 million people in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Argentina. Quechua was the language of the Inca empire which was destroyed by the Spanish in the 16th century. In many cases, we need two interpreters, one to translate from Quechuan to Spanish and another from Spanish to English. I feel like a giant amongst these loving people.
At the end of the day, Dr. Rice asks if I would like to come back to the OR Thursday instead of going to the clinic. I jump at the opportunity.
We have been lucky on this trip. There are many lovely young adults with whom Reilly has become friends. They enjoy the evening playing cards and enjoying each others’ company. They are quite a team in the clinic screening patients.