Vosh 2014 Samaipata, Bolivia Thurs, Feb 13, 2014
Today started out with the power cutting out in the middle of my shower. That made for a very quick and very cold rinse off.
We had a temporary solution for the batteries. The electricians were able to charge them, but each one would only last about 45 minutes. So it was a day of continuously switching out batteries.
I saw a 7 year old boy with a coloboma of both upper eyelids. Such a sweet kid. The inner half of each upper lid never formed. He had corneal scars in both eyes from the constant exposure. And he had a crazy high prescription +9.00 farsightedness.
Rachel and I again worked together. We really made a great team. We shared equipment, made each other laugh when the day got too stressful and covered for each other when we needed someone to confirm some weird finding.
I caught three glaucoma patients today whose pressure had initially measured normal but from the appearance of the optic nerve, had the pressures remeasured. We were able to give all three of these patients who could not afford medication two to three years worth of medication. I probably would have given them more, but the meds do eventually expire.
One of the very pleasant unexpected plusses of this trip is that the CRE has a foundation and they do ongoing care. We can leave the medications with these kind volunteers and physicians and they can provide continuing care to many of the patients in need. I sent a couple of people for cataract surgery.
Out of the hundreds of patients we see each day, there are always a few that aren’t happy with the shape or size or color of the frame. Or they are unhappy that their doctor told them then didn’t need glasses and well, everyone else is getting glasses, I should get glasses too. At the time, these difficult patients stick in your mind. But as time goes on, those patients fade, and all of the patients that hugged you and told you that God has blessed you etc. are the memories that will remain.
Getting to know such an amazing group of individuals is such a gift. Natalie could run a country the way she can stay calm with 10 people demanding her attention and an answer at the same time. Her husband Paul worked hard and was always upbeat and smiling. Their daughter Annie never stopped her job, taking the eye pressures, and would always help whenever asked with a smile and without complaint.
The people making the glasses, Dutra, Dr. James, Debbie and Dutra’s father, Jim, worked even later than the rest of us because they had to finish making the glasses and clean up after we left. They worked all day with white plastic residue covering their faces and clothes and just kept producing lenses under difficult conditions.
Dr. Jerry, Rachel, Dr. Keith, Dr. Nelson and I saw 1300 patients treating any condition that we possibly could, finding out if there was an option for any patients that we could not treat and worked with minimal equipment.
Randall, Edith, Rosita and Rosita (yes two of them) took acuities all day. This is a tough job on patients that have never had an eye exam before. Either they just want to nod or shake their head when asked to read the letters, or they insist on reading the entire chart instead of only the letters requested.
Nurse Robin, Dr. Reggie and Renee saw all of the patients with medical complaints. This included several of the volunteer on the mission who got “traveler’s” disease. They certainly fixed me up quick when I wasn’t feeling well. They saw everything from a hernia the size of a cantaloupe, venereal diseases, back pain, diabetes, high blood pressure and who knows what else.
And then maybe the most difficult job of all. The opticians, Marcus, Janet and many others, work under tough conditions. They have to read the doctors handwriting, decide which glasses they are going to make and which ones they are going to try to find, dispense the glasses and then deal with the “I want a larger / smaller frame” or “I want a different color” or “the doctor said I didn’t need glasses but I can barely see to get around” to “I forgot to tell the doctor that my eyes itch can I go back in” etc etc.
Dr. Frank and his wife Debbie did 30+ cataract surgeries, an evisceration and several consults. What a nice couple.
There are the people working the registration desk, Mel and Bob, that have to try to figure out why the patient is there and communicate it to the docs. And sweetheart Jimmy bending over all day to measure auto refractions so the doctors don’t freak out having to ret each patient. And Gary helping him.
There were also all of the local volunteers, many from CRE, who translated, transported patients back and forth to the hospital, cleaned, fed us etc. They were kind, generous and hard working. We could have not done any of this without them.
I am missing some people, please forgive me. But it truly is a generous, kind-hearted group of people. Sure, we each get on each other’s nerves from time to time. But we are there for one another and for the common cause of helping needy people.