By Penny Campo-Pierce, Dr. Bob Foote, & Sandy Foote
This year’s clinic saw 880 patients served by 23 volunteers, including ten doctors. In five clinic days, we made medical referrals for 125 people, sent one man to the hospital for immediate surgery on a torn retina, and arranged for a ten-year-old girl to have cataract surgery so her eyes and brain could begin to communicate, before it was too late for coordination of that process. Our team worked together in a fluid dance to do what needed to be done for each patient, seen in a timely and professional way.
The final stage of the patient’s visit takes place in the dispensing room. Chaotic doesn’t begin to describe it. In one corner, Sandy Foote is talking with a translator and a patient to refer the patient to a general or specialist doctor or an Ophthalmologist, depending on their medical issue. In another corner, Bill Pierce is fitting a patient with frames so new glasses can be made right there in the room or he’s fitting newly made glasses on a different patient. On a wall inside the door, our computer guru Kevin is searching the database for glasses with the right prescription for the next patient in line. Along another wall is the line of patients waiting with their exam card from the doctor. Many of them have a mother, father, sibling(s), or grandma along with them; sometimes combinations of all those possibilities! We have team members and student translators helping find prescription glasses, giving sunglasses to each person, and explaining the importance of wearing the sunglasses every time they go outside. The elevation in La Esperanza is 5500 feet; the UVA rays from the sun cause early cataracts. Sunglasses also offer protection against the dust in the air that may cause another condition, Pterygium.
Every year we have a story, or two or three, about the most wonderful patient encounter. This year our favorite is about the three-year-old boy who came with one eye turned in fully toward his nose; the other eye was not tracking on anything in his environment. He was a great little trooper during the eye exam and the fitting for new glasses. When he came back for his glasses, he was not engaged with what was going on around him at all. As soon as we put on the glasses, his eyes were tracking together and he couldn’t soak everything in fast enough. Now comes the best part: he looked at his mother and asked “Can I take them home?” No dry eyes on any team members with that one! Praise God for His help in all things. It would not be possible to do this work with any joy or equanimity without God being in each and every detail.