When you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life. This sentiment rings true for us during this mission. While the days can be more than 12 hours long and we are running on just a few hours of sleep, we feel very much invigorated and enormously satisfied at the clinic.

My favorite part of the day is the post-operative checks early in the morning, when we examine patients the day after their surgery to check on their recovery progress and detect any complications. It is incredible to see our patients doing well and even benefiting from immediate improvements in their visions. Many patients went from being able to only perceive hand motions to actually being able to count fingers or even distinguish and read letters on a screen or paper because of the surgery! Quite a few patients, just one day after surgery, were able to see with a 20/20 or 20/25 (near perfect) vision! I’m glad to say – that’s a better vision than me even, by a margin! It truly is magnificent!

As you can imagine, what infallibly keeps our team going is the unsurpassed gratefulness those patients have for what we do for them and for this community. Their gratitude is evident in their eyes, and when they offer us big long hugs, firm hearty handshakes, countless thanks and genuine blessings; it really is deeply fulfilling.

We had the chance to perform many more interesting cases today. The most memorable patient was a 32-year-old young gentleman, Juan, who sustained an ocular trauma at age 14 from a tire explosion. So for the past 18 years, Juan has suffered from severe cataract which seriously limited his quality of life. Due to the extent of his injury (Juan also had phacodonesis with partial lens subluxation due to damaged zonules), there were very high risks associated with his operation. Our three surgeons convened to strategize and considered potentially delaying the surgery until next year (our next mission) when we could return with more advanced equipments to help restore his vision while significantly minimizing his risks of complications. Upon hearing the option that we might not operate today due to missing the optimal tools for his complex condition, Juan could not hold back his tears. This strong young man broke down in front of all of us because he had been so looking forward to this day to finally regain his vision. For a minute, the room was filled with stifling silence and sadness. We thought perhaps we could order supplies right away from the US to have them shipped hopefully by the weekend, in time to still help him during this mission. However, it was not a solution good enough for us. I handed Juan a tissue, but his tears had already melted our hearts. Drs. Sable and Appel, unwilling to give up, thought again long and hard about an alternative. Dr. Krebs also felt strongly about pushing the boundaries of challenging surgical techniques and advocated for providing Juan with a maximum chance at a better vision today. After much consideration, our team had a plan to help Juan proceed with surgery with carefully prepared risk controls and contingency management. Juan and his whole family were thrilled by the decision. They could not be more thankful. Fortunately, the operation went extremely well! The family went around the room to hug us, thanking us again and again. I cannot wait to see Juan tomorrow at post-op check tomorrow!

Today, we also helped a 3-year-old girl who had congenital cataracts which with our surgical intervention and a period of careful patching with correct lens use to prevent amblyopia can have an excellent prognosis that would benefit her for the rest of her life. There was also a wonderfully bright 12-year-old with bilateral uveitic cataracts that resulted in posterior synechia, where her iris got stuck onto the lens of her eye causing a misshaped, almost nonexistent pupil. We were able to create a pupil that allows her to see. We also had 92-year-old patient who lived on the mountaintop without shoes who was nearly blind. We helped her remove her dense cataract, which had gradually made her life more difficult and reclusive over the past years. After her recovery, she would be able to get back to being more active and independent, and enjoy seeing the faces of her children and playing with her grandchildren once again. At the PACU area (post anesthesia recovery), she kept asking me over and over… “Quién es el doctor que me operó?” (Who is the doctor that operated on me?) “Puedes escribir su nombre por favor?” (Could you please write down his name?) “De dónde son?” (Where are you from?) I answered her each time with a bigger smile.

Perhaps our patients think our team was the only group providing positive values in this community, but they may not realize the positive impressions they have left in our mind. It is so beautiful to watch the heartwarming interactions between our patients and their families as they were there fully present for each other, holding each other close, and helping facilitate every step with great acts of love. It deeply moves us in a way that helps us render the best care for them in return.

By Wednesday night, we had completed 53 cataract surgeries. It is so rewarding to think that these are not just 53 lives that we have touched, but also their family members’ lives in which we have made a real impact.

And it’s always important to remember that these impacts we made would not have been possible without the help of so many countless other individuals…

May they all be blessed.