Since its early years, Magellan's has maintained close ties with another Santa Barbara-based organization, SEE International, a humanitarian nonprofit dedicated to restoring sight worldwide. To support SEE International's fight against global blindness, Magellan's has provided equipment such as electrical adaptors so ophthalmic equipment could work in different countries, as well as functional travel items for fundraising events. Today, Magellan's is proud to support SEE International by providing Magellan's Cares Kits to volunteer eye surgeons, as well as promoting SEE International's cause to its worldwide customer base.
Founded in 1974, SEE International has screened more than 1 million individuals and restored sight to 330,000 patients. More than 600 eye surgeons from 75 countries belong to SEE International's global network of volunteers. For more information, visit www.seeintl.org.
Here are some medical mission stories forwarded by Thomas Arendshorst, M.D., one of the doctors on a recent SEE International surgical expedition to Gracias, Honduras.
A couple of years ago, the first day of our mission in Gracias, Honduras, I examined a lovely little 11-year-old girl named Angela, who had come in with her father from a hill village some distance away. She said she didn't see well. I asked her father how well she did in school. He said she'd never been to school, because of her visual handicap. When I examined her eyes, I found bilateral cataracts, and vision about the same in each eye. This was good news for her prognosis: cataracts are fixable, she's clearly developed visual potential, and her two eyes are about the same (neither is an amblyopic, "lazy," eye). I recommended that she have cataract surgery, in hopes of gaining better functional vision. Her father was eager and hopeful; he dropped his head and said a brief prayer before taking his daughter to schedule her surgery.
When she arrived for her surgery yesterday Angela was closed-mouthed and obviously apprehensive. Dale Moore, our anesthetist, lullabyed her to sleep with medication, and her surgery went really nicely, moving her past most of her risks for that eye. While we were working, I found out that the last patient of the day hadn't shown up. I asked the anesthetist and nurses if they'd be willing to use that available time to take care of Angela's other eye, too It would give her the advantage of the surgery planned for next year a year sooner, and would save her the trip back. For us, it would mean finishing her first operation and setting up just as if we were starting surgery for someone else, except that Angela wouldn't have to wake up.
But that left Angela out of the decision. Tia Marta, our interpreter and clinic auntie, talked it over with Angela's dad, and he was distinctly positive. The others in the OR were happy to work on. So we did, and her second cataract/lens implant surgery went smoothly, too. She went home sleeping in her dad's arms, with both eyes bandaged shut.
The next morning Angela and her dad were at the clinic early. Though I'd told her dad to take one bandage off the evening before so she could see, she arrived with both eyes bandaged She looked scared.
I peeled the bandages off, one and then the other, and she blinked, clearing her eyes of tears.
And then she smiled, a big, broad smile.
During one of my Honduran medical mission trips I sat down one morning to operate on an elderly lady. Señora Maredoña had bilaterally blinding cataracts, cataracts so cloudy her pupils were white. She lived in a campo, a remote village. After removing one cataract and replacing it with a modern lens implant for her right eye, I went ahead and repeated the operation for her left eye; it improved her chances of getting one very good result, and I suspected she might never get another chance for surgery.
The next morning a teenaged boy and a thin man with a white cowboy hat guided Señora Maredoña by the arms to "see" me. A bandage covered each eye. The boy, Ernesto, told me that he was her oldest son, that the man was her husband, and that she was thirty-three years old. Despite her blindness, he said, she had still been trying to care for her family, but had repeatedly burned herself while cooking. She had never seen her two youngest children. I gently peeled off both bandages and cleaned her eyelashes with a kleenex. Señora Maredoña blinked in the sunlight, looked at her husband, and her mouth dropped into an O. "Carlos!" she exclaimed in Spanish. "You've grown so old!"
Ernesto returned that afternoon, while I was examining other patients in our clinic, and asked to speak to me. I stood and shook his hand; Ernesto placed his left hand atop our clasped two. "Doctor," Ernesto began, then grinned and began to cry. He wiped his eyes. "Doctor," he said, "for all our family, I want to thank you. You have returned our mother to us."