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Outreach Organization Sends its First Eye Mission to Argentina
Special to the Ocular Surgery News
Dr. Albert A. Alley, MD

Our team of three ophthalmologists and seven support professionals visited Santiago del Estero in northwest Argentina April 5 to April 13, where we performed about 95 cataract surgeries, 15 strabismus operations and 12 corneal transplants on indigent patients, many of whom were children.

Study in contrasts
The mission, organized by World Blindness Outreach and sponsored by Rotary Clubs in District 7390 in the United States and District 4800 in Argentina, turned out to be a study in contrasts.
Dr. George Rosenwasser, a member of our team, performed corneal transplants in what he described as a “circa 1950s” operating room in a public ophthalmological hospital, while, on the other hand, other members of our team performed cataract and strabismus surgeries in a modern, well-equipped, privately owned eye clinic.
Peter Strategos, Rotary District 7390 Governor from Mechanicsburg, Pa., visited the Santiago del Estero region 5 years ago as part of a Rotary exchange team. Some of the Rotarians he met during that visit contacted him and asked him to help arrange an eye mission to the area. The Rotarians in Santiago del Estero recruited Dr. Carlos M. Ramos Taboada to serve as the local coordinator.

Helping Hands
The team we organized included myself as a team leader; Dr. Julio Martinez, an ophthalmologist from Navajoa, Sonora, Mexico, and Dr. Rosenwasser, an associate professor of ophthalmology at Penn State University.
Mr. Strategos served as the project coordinator, and his wife, Kathy, served as a mission assistant. The other support personnel consisted of William Ebinger and his wife, Diane, from Leonard, Mich., who served as operating room technicians; nurses Eileen Geiss of Ephrata, Pa., and Cindy Rostad of Lancaster, Pa.; and ophthalmic technician Sharon Yingst of Hummelstown, Pa.

Dire level of need
Thanks to a grant from Rotary, we were able to take along a surgical microscope and a slit lamp valued at $15,000, which we donated to St. Mary’s Municipal Hospital, the local public hospital serving the region. We took along two other surgical microscopes that we used for the mission and then brought back. Surgical Eye Expeditions International (S.E.E.) equipped us with an autoclave that we used during the mission.
Dr. Rosenwasser, who serves as medical director of the Lions Eye Bank of Central Pennsylvania, received a total of 14 corneas donated by eye banks around the United States. The tissues were shipped to Miami, where we consolidated and repacked them for our flight to Buenos Aires. Ultimately he used 11 of the 14 corneas, the majority of them to restore sight to young patients with keratoconus.

Two generations of patients - Four siblings were among the patients on whom WBO doctors performed successful cataract surgery during the organizations mission to Argentina.  Their mother was also successfully operated on for cataracts.

Two girls with crossed eyes before
surgery in Argentina

The two girls after surgery in Argentina




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