Last month, on October 10th we celebrated World Sight Day, and the doctors at Visualiza, our Guatemala City eye clinic, and the Vincent Pescatore clinic in El Peten, performed free cataract surgeries on 206 patients. At 6:00a.m. the line outside the Guatemala City clinic had already wrapped around the block as impoverished residents sought answers to their declining vision.
Each year on World Sight Day, which falls on the second Thursday of October, Visualiza closes the doors of its private clinics and all personnel report directly to the social service clinics. At 6:00a.m., the doctors scan the lines of people awaiting care to identify individuals who qualify to receive free surgery to immediately remove their cataracts. The day has a marked impact as many patients who enter the clinic have been blind or years, and leave the clinic with renewed sight.
This is Maria Teresa and Jose Luis Alvizurez Castro and their daughter Aura who was born with a mental handicap. They have been married for 52 years and wen Aura was born they were told that she
was special, that she would never be able to read or write, and that she would not live a normal life like the rest of us. From that moment on, they have cared for and loved her with all of their hearts, never leaving her side.
Maria Teresa and Jose Luis live a simple life. Maria Teresa works selling food in a small food stand while also taking care of Aura. Jose Luis worked doing odd jobs, repairing shoes or labor in construction. He says “I did whatever I could find to raise money for my family.” Jobs for Jose Luis became fewer and fewer as his eyesight began to decline. People stopped hiring him because the quality of his work was deteriorating due to his lack of vision. Around the same time, Maria Teresa was also finding it difficult to complete her tasks at home; her sight seemed to be dimming. She told us that each year it was becoming harder to care for her daughter Aura, her kitchen, and last but not least her husband.
On World Site Day 2013, the family came to the Visualiza Eye Clinic looking for help. They both had mature cataracts and were operated on the same day. Maria Teresa was operated first. As her surgery finished and she was leaving the operating room, Dr. Mariano could sense that she did not want to leave. He told her again that her surgery went very well and all would be fine. She then told him that the man on the table in front of him was her husband and she was very nervous for him. He asked if she would like to stay and hold his hand during the surgery. Her answer was immediate. She stayed through the whole surgery and held his hand.
Now almost one month later their vision is restored and they are back on with their lives.
What happens to the other hundreds of people who have patiently awaited care, but who are found to
have afflictions other than cataracts? On this day, indigent Guatemalans who suffer vision impairment are
treated at a much reduced cost.
We owe the warmest of gratitude to our generous Guatemalan eye surgeons, Drs. Mariano and Nico Yee, and Dr. Angel Chuy who performed 206 surgeries non-stop on October 10 from 6:15a.m. until 8:30p.m., and optometrist Kimberly Weidman-Yee. Their work changes lives.
I once was lost, but now I'm found
Was blind, but now I see.