Vision Mission Peru 2013
It was finally happening after over nine months of planning, including a scouting trip last fall to a kilometer eight squatter’s community, Pucallpa, Peru, South America! This is a seven-year-old community of 8,000 people whose medical needs are met by Dr. Matthews, a local trauma and emergency room physician and medical director of the AMOR ONG, in a medical compound where missions can help. I teamed with Dr. Shannon McCole, chairman of the EVMS Ophthalmology department, and her chief resident, Dr. Gio DiSandro. We were also joined by Dr. Neal Apple of New Mexico who has travelled semi-annually for seven years to work with Dr. Carrasco in Clinica Amazonica to perform pterygium surgery. We were joined by 21 others from EVMS on the medical team including Dr. David Matson. Our goal – “His heart. Our hands.” – serving the needs of the Lord’s people with our medical expertise.
This was not vacation floating down the Ucayali River, the mother of the Amazon, nor hiking to Cusco high in the Andes! We worked and saw patients every day, including that initial Sunday afternoon clinic to find our surgical patients for Monday. Amongst our 58 patients seen that afternoon was an eight-year-old boy, wheelchair bound by spina bifida, who was unable to see clearly beyond eight inches. He received his first pair of eyeglasses for myopia (nearsightedness). There were no dry eyes for this eye team, assisted by MPH and medical students. Together, we saw over 500 patients in 6 days from ages 3 to 92, with a high of 127 patients the day before our last day! We dispensed 460 pairs of eyeglasses, donated and organized by the Lions Clubs of Hampton Roads, in boxes of 50 and grouped by prescription power for treating presbyopia and myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism (blurred vision).
Another one of our goals was to help cataract and pterygium surgical patients, where we received corporate donations from Alcon, Allergan, Bausch and Lomb and PSS (Physicians Surgical Supply) in the form of IOLs (intraocular lenses), visco-elastics (used to protect the inside of the eye in cataract surgery), surgical blades, and other needed surgical supplies, including post-op kits and sunglasses from Marchon and New York Eye. Eight cataract and four pterygium surgeries were performed in the first two days. A new relationship with another local ophthamalogist, Dr. Salas, was started. We have found to “expect the unexpected” as we are in the practice of medicine. But on a different continent, an operating room and clinical practice must be respected. One in every four patients seen had either a cataract or pterygium, and sometimes both! Thirty-one percent, or 35 patients, had a surgical pterygium with 20/200 vision or worse and 41 percent, or 47 patients, with surgical cataracts.
A pterygium is a growth of fibro vascular scar tissue across the surface of the cornea from sun and wind exposure. Dr. Matson is researching other toxic causes in this community. A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that comes with time and outdoor exposure. Five percent of patients also had glaucoma (high eye fluid pressure damaging the optic nerve leading to loss of side, then central vision) which is best treated by filtering (trabeculectomy) surgery. Our goal is to team up with Dr. Salas, who has an operating microscope with an assistant’s scope needed for resident surgery, and to perform 30-50 operations over a five-day mission. But beyond one to two missions a year, our goal is to treat surgical eye pathology – pterygium, cataracts and glaucoma – in the Ciudad de Dios (City of God) kilometer eight community throughout the year by providing surgical supplies to perform 100 cataract and 50 pterygium procedures, teaming with Dr. Salas in a continuous program.
Among our surgical patients is Jose, our one-eyed cataract surgery patient with an inoperable tumor the size of a hand over his right eye, fusing his eyelids. He and his wife were so appreciative and trusting of the care he received. Imagine your only eye patched overnight and being led around till you are unpatched the next day! We prayed together, and were so thankful that the Lord brought us together for the healing and restoration of his vision. I am ready to return, despite the cold showers, sleeping in mosquito nets, lack of air conditioning, the rainy season and a cold from my EVMS PhD roommate Dr. Paul Aravich, to serve the needs of my brothers and sisters in faith in Ciudad de Dios, the City of God.
G. Peyton Neatrour, MD
Chairman Eye Care Program
Montero Medical Missions