HEALTH TALENTS INTERNATIONAL
EYE SURGERY TRIP REPORT
Clinica Ezell in Montellano, Guatemala
July 22-29, 2006

Participants: Ophthalmologists Drs. Meredith Ezell and Josh Young; Optometry Student Mardee O’Donnell; Chaplain Dr. Bob Young of OCU; Translator Hayley Entrekin; Med Students Justin Getting and Sujit Itty, Nursing students Rebecca Mitchell and Heather Patton; Pre-med student Kevin Childers and Abe Itty; Ancillary help Hannah Vick and Marie Agee.

The eye surgery clinic started off with lots of anxiety because two days before we left one of the ophthalmologists who had earlier committed to be with us backed out. She was in language school in Antigua and was going to leave school for a week to perform eye surgery, but decided at the last minute that she really should not do that. Because Lisa and Walter had planned on her being there, they had pre-screened additional patients with her in mind. On Sunday and Monday we were flooded with incoming patients, so tensions were running tight!

Meredith Ezell and 4th year resident, Josh Young, worked diligently to catch up, however, and catch up they did. They were aided by Mardee O’Donnell, a 3rd year optometry school student, who assisted in screening all the incoming patients, and the assortment of medical and nursing students we had with us did the visual acuity exams. By the third day, everything seemed under control. Whew!

This was Meredith’s first clinic trip without the assistance of Jurdean Reed, our faithful eye surgery nurse who participated in our very first eye surgery clinic in 1993 and almost every one since until she was recently sidelined by a brain tumor. Jurdean is a super organizer and took care of a multitude of details on these trips. Meredith did extremely well in Jurdean’s absence, but we needed a couple of items that Jurdean always brought. Carlos and Alex checked with labs in the city and found that we could purchase both of these items for a small fraction of what we pay in the States, so in the future we will just ask that these items be obtained in Guatemala. One of them is the BSS solution that is so heavy to have to carry.

The chaplain on this trip was Dr. Bob Young from Oklahoma Christian. He is head of the graduate Bible Department there. He used the book of Luke for his text and provided insightful devos both morning and night. To serve as a reminder of the thoughts, he compiled all the devos into a little booklet and presented one to each of us. Several people, including myself, found ourselves picking up the booklet daily and reviewing them. It was a thoughtful thing to do. Bob spoke some Spanish, too, so he was helpful in that arena as well.

The Guatemalan staff continued with their nightly devos for the patients. It was a precious sight to see men and women standing and sitting around, one eye bandaged, yet singing away with praises to our Father!

Meredith and I made the decision to dispose of a large supply of Legacy 20000 kits we had in storage for a machine that we don’t have and are not likely to get…or even need. We opened each kit and removed the slit knives, then threw the rest of the kit out. This freed up a ton of storage space.

On Wednesday Lisa, Kemmel and I drove into the city to meet with Nery about the AIDS education/prevention proposal I’ve been working on. We arrived to an assembly of Nery and his four top people! We met for an hour and a half, and it was clear that they were visibly interested in and excited about the possibility of helping plan and conduct this campaign. Nery has volunteered to do all the design work for free, with the proposal covering production costs. They promised to have an outline of their suggestions plus a sample billboard design to me by the end of August. I will cover more of the details of this meeting in my monthly report.

By the end of the week, Meredith and Josh had screened well over 100 people and performed surgery on 30 patients. Two-thirds of them had cataracts and the others had ptergyiums. Here is a sample of some of our patients:

   * 10-year-old Jaime was diagnosed as being permanently blinded in one eye because of some sort of trauma. He was one of Lisa’s patients.
   * One young man was found to have what appeared to be cancer of the cornea.
   * Another young man was found to have both a cataract and a dead optic nerve.
   * One elderly man who had only light perception before surgery was able to name the correct number of fingers that Josh held up—from 6 feet away!
   * A delightful elderly woman with pretty long, gray hair who declared that she had more than 100 boyfriends!
   * A woman I met in the hallway, dressed in her street clothes and wearing the dark after-surgery glasses, was shuffling along with a cane. She was clearly ready to go home (but headed in the wrong direction). When I asked her if she could now see, she replied with spirit, “Yes, now I can see well enough to go to the bathroom!” Since that was the direction she was headed, I had no reason to disbelieve her answer!
   * Many patients who received the gift of sight…from one day to the next. They were so incredibly grateful to God.

It was a wonderful week. The young people on the team were committed and focused and provided excellent help to Meredith and Josh. They helped in the operating room, took turns running the autoclave, and rotated on mobile medical clinics with Walter and Silvia. Their mothers would have been proud!