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Eye Mission Performs 100-plus Operations in Peru
Special to the Ocular Surgery News

During a recent World Blindness Outreach (WBO) mission to Peru, our eye-surgery team performed more than 100 operations, but perhaps the greatest contribution we made was the new $7,000 operating mmicroscope we left behind.
When we departed at the end of a week-long visit, Sister Sarita, the nun in charge of the charity hospital where we operated, said she felt confident she would be able to persuade Peruvian doctors to volunteer to come to the hospital to operate now that it was equipped ith its own microscope.  She told us that only minimal eye surgery had been performed at  her hospital in the past, largely because it lacked an operating room microscope.

The Trip
Our trip to Peru took place in mid-February.   The destination was the San Jose Hospital in Chincha, Peru, a town about 185 miles south of Lima.  We flew into Lima, where we were met by a delegation from the Rotary Club of Chincha, one of our sponsors, and then we traveled the rest of the way by chartered bus.
Besides myself, the WBO team included George Rosenwasser, MD, associate professor of opthalmology at Penn State University's Hershey Medical Center, and medical director of the Lion's Eye Bank of South Central Pennsylvania, and his wife, Miriam, a native Cuban, who served as a surgical technician and interpreter; Julio Martinez, an opthalmologist from Sonora, Mexico; William and Diane Ebinger of Leonard, Mich., who served as operating room supervisor and surgical technician, respectively; Eileen Geiss, a surgical nurse from Ephrata, Pa.; Carolyn Peters of Manheim, Pa., our trip coordinator; Pranck Johannesen, an optician from from New Ringgold, Pa., and his wife, Jan Johannesen; and Linda Alley, my daughter, who recently finished a stint in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic and served as an interpreter.
The $13,000 cost of the trip (including the microscope) was underwritten by WBO, which is based inLebanon, Pa.; by the Rotary Clubs of Lebanon, Pa., of Monterrey, Mexico, and of Chincha; and by the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International.  The doctors on the eam paid their own trael expenses.

Working Together
The team performed close to 90 cataract operations and between 15 and 20 strabismus surgeries.  Rosenwasser performed 10 corneal transplants using tissue brought along from the United States.  We worked with three local doctors, training them in the latest surgical techniques.
Francisco Neyra, MD, an opthalmologist and Rotarian living in Chincha, screened the patients, all of whom came from the town and surrounding communities, which are located in a poor, desert region.  Neyra's son, Geno Neyra, MD, participated in an opthalmology fellowship under Rosenwasser at the Hershey Medical Center.  The son told Rosenwasser about the great need in the area, and Rosenwasser put him in touch with me.  Through him I communicated with the elder Neyra, and that's how the plans for this mission were born. 
Rosenwasser, who went on earlier missions to Belize and the Ukraine, said he was particularly touched by the people he met in Chincha.  "There was clearly a deep appreciation for the effort we made," he observed.  "They were most in need, and there was a tremendous effort by the people on site to organize everything."
As on most of our WBO missions, the conditions we encountered were less than ideal. A large portion of the two-story hospital - most of it, I'd say - was completely out of commission after having been damaged by an earthquake.  rsenwasser credited Sister Sarita for being "just spectacular" in the way she worked with and comforted patients before and after surgery.  "She was a key person in terms of making this work," he said.
Peru became the twelfth country visited by a WBO mission.  Earlier missions have gone to Egypt, China, Guyana, India, Nigeria, Brazil, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic, among other countries.  The number of surgeries performed overall as a result of these missions is now approaching the 2,000 mark.


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