Letter from Parker Cornea
This February I was fortunate enough to be able to travel for a second time to Granada, Nicaragua on a medical mission trip with Dr. John Parker. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in Latin America, following Haiti. The average income of a Nicaraguan is just over $3,000 per year. About 79% of the population lives on the equivalent of $2 US per day. It would be a vast stretch of the imagination for a family living on $2 per day to be able to provide enough food to satisfy their hunger, much less necessary medical care. Much of the population is illiterate; and most children do not progress past the fourth grade because they have to drop out of school to help provide for their families.
As we began our journey to the hospital each morning, we passed children sleeping on the sidewalks and some starting out their workday collecting garbage from the streets. I am constantly reminded of how fortunate we are to live in America, and to have the ability to share some of our many gifts with the people of Nicaragua. What better gift to share, than the gift of sight.
Two other ophthalmic technicians and I screened about 200 patients at the hospital eye clinic. We quickly filled the week’s surgery schedule for two ophthalmologists in one day. We performed cataract extractions, strabismus surgeries, and corneal transplants. There were 2 teams of optometrists from Boston and Canada who helped those without a surgical need.
I spent the bulk of the week circulating in the operating room for Dr. Parker and seeing post-op patients in the eye clinic. We were able to perform 2 DSAEKs and 6 PKs (corneal transplants). There are two patients who really stood out in my mind. One was a man who barely had light perception and was so photophobic he could hardly open his right eye before surgery. We finished his surgery around 9:00 one evening and he spent the night in the hospital. When we arrived to check his vision the following morning, he could easily open his eyes to see his wife and had count fingers vision. What an amazing one day post-op transformation! The next was a young women who could only see movement in her left eye. The following morning she could easily count fingers, as well. Her mom cried tears of joy as she handed out small gifts to Dr. Parker and all of the staff who helped her daughter. I am again reminded of how little they have, and yet are willing to give all.
All of this is to say, thank you so much for your support which allowed Dr. Parker, myself and many others help the people of Nicaragua. The Alabama Eye Bank donated corneal tissue, without which we couldn’t have restored the vision of so many. Accutome donated an a-scan and tonometer, without which we could have never screened the many patients with such ease. Thank you also to Alcon for the many post-op medications and surgical supplies, without these we would never have been able to safely perform surgeries. You have all helped us give the greatest gift imaginable!