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Through a Patient's Eyes: the Guerrero Surgery and Education Center
The Guerrero Surgery and Education
Center, Spring Clinic 2016
day begins early on this crisp spring morning at the Rotary-sponsored Guerrero Clinic but the start is a bit slower than
typical. The waiting area is filled but not yet at capacity. This relative calm
lasts until a bus brings a surge of patients that will set the pace for the
rest of the day. Conversations buzz in Spanish, English and even a German
dialect spoken by the region’s Mennonite people. You can feel some confusion in
the air, but soon the patients begin to follow the well-honed process that the clinic has employed for years.
need only to imagine a very busy rendition of musical chairs. As soon as the
necessary paperwork is completed for a patient the preliminary assessments
begin. Throughout the process the
patients literally move from chair to chair as they progress though the line to
the “hot seat”. The next stop will be to visit with a doctor.
this day, just after 11am, Mireya and her husband, Guerardo, make their way
through the crowded front doors. Mireya is here for a follow up appointment for
last year’s cataract surgery in her left eye. She also has a cataract in her
right eye which is further complicated by a previous retinal detachment.
Although it’s not been confirmed, she is anticipating another surgery. Guerardo
is to have his cataracts evaluated and he’s optimistic that he will also
receive surgery. For both, their opportunity to have their vision restored
wouldn't be possible without the clinic.
is only 49 and Guerardo is 55. It may seem odd by American standards that such
a young couple would both be suffering with the same degenerative eye
disease. However, cataracts, often
maturing to an advanced stage where the entire lens is white, are not rare in
this region of Mexico. Many of the
indigent people just like Mireya and Guerardo deal with severe vision loss and
even blindness because of this devastating eye disease. Even children come to the Guerrero Clinic for
treatment of cataracts. While nutrition may be a factor, the true culprit is
more likely the region’s altitude and intense UV sun rays at the high elevation
of 7,000+ feet above sea level.
of the excellent medical care provided at each of the clinic sessions, vision
will be restored to many in this remote area of
Mexico. Regardless of whether it is eye glasses or cataract surgery, all
services are provided free to the patients.
The clinic has helped the
indigent population of Mexico for over 30 years. It’s the longest running
active project of its type in the Rotary organization, operating 4 one-week
clinics per year. Three of the clinics
are for eye and dental needs and one is for plastic surgeries such as cleft
palates. During each clinic between 700 and 1,000
patients will be treated and 100 - 250 surgeries will be performed. This
Spring Clinic is no different and Mireya and Guerardo are typical of the
thousands of others that have received care here.
so, the couple’s process continues as they each read the eye chart with Randall,
a volunteer from Chicago on his 5th medical mission. James, an optometrist from South Carolina, checks
out each of their pupils. James is on his first visit to the Guerrero Clinic
but his 10th medical mission. Dilation drops are administered by the
optical students attending as part of a student volunteer program referred to
as VOSH or the Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity. The final step in the assessment process is
the auto-refractor with volunteers Bill and Lynn from the Ruidoso Rotary Club.
and Guerado’s gratitude for the care they’re receiving is evident at all times
and their devotion to one another is even more apparent. They, like most all of
the patients at the clinic, continually affirm their appreciation to the clinic
volunteers. This, perhaps more than any other aspect, is what makes
volunteering at the clinic so rewarding.
day progresses and by 1:30 Guerardo has been evaluated by the optometrist. His
need for surgery is confirmed and he moves on to the scheduling office. Arrangements for his cataract surgery to be
performed the next day are finalized and he’ll spend the rest of this day
following the efforts to restore Mireya’s vision. Her day is far from over.
never leaves Mireya’s side as she is evaluated to see if she’s a candidate for
a laser procedure that would be an alternative to surgery. Unfortunately, the laser treatment is quickly
ruled out. Michael, an optometrist from Illinois and participating in his 5th
clinic, now finalizes the plans for Mireya to have her second cataract surgery.
Both will return in the morning for another long day moving seat by seat
through the waiting room as they wait for their turn in surgery.
couple’s 2nd day at the clinic begins early and due to the
scheduling, they spend the day separated by several seats as they wait to go
into pre-op. The separation from Mireya is an emotional burden for Guerardo and
concern shows on his face. It’s clear that he’s anxious about being apart from
his wife. As the hours of waiting pass, Guerardo is finally moved to pre-op
while Mireya waits alone for her turn. It’s only a short 2 hours but for the
first time during this medical odyssey she appears fragile. Guerardo is clearly
her strength. When she moves into pre-op and they are reunited their relief is
is humming with all the necessary surgical preparations but is a lively and fun
place as well. Work is frequently stopped for a song and a dance performed by
the entertaining Mistress of Pre-op, Elsa Branson and her merry band of pre-op
nursing volunteers. To work in this part of the clinic a full working knowledge
of the Cotton-Eye-Joe and the Macarena are as important as medical skill. Elsa
is routinely found waltzing with the patients. Her gentle ministrations help to
relax the patients and make their ordeal a little less onerous.
into surgery Elsa’s waltzing is replaced by the doctor’s iPhone playing the
Rolling Stones. The ophthalmologist performing Guerardo’s surgery isn't an
American volunteer, but one of the Mexican doctors who routinely volunteer.
Within his surgical area three patients are in various stages of
readiness. Guerardo is already undergoing
his surgery. Another man is in the room ready to follow. This leaves Mireya,
the 3rd patient, in a seat outside the surgery room alone but
fortunately still very close to her husband.us.
Guerardo’s surgery is completed Mireya is brought into the surgery room. Although the doctor is initially unaware that
he has husband and wife patients he soon realizes that Mireya is anxious to
know about her husband. Once he sees her concern his gentle demeanor with
Mireya is touching as he reassures her. As Guerardo is led out of the surgery
room he stops to place his hand on Mireya’s cheek.
surgery is more complicated due to the detached retina injury to her eye and
it’s evident that the doctor and his team are paying close attention to her
the end of this long day, with many instructions for the night ahead and their
eyes swathed in gauze bandages, the couple’s son and granddaughter are there to
take them home. They will return early the next morning for their post-op
third morning finds Guerardo and Mireya at the clinic but this time it is for
their post-op appointments. To an
observer it may seem unceremonious as the bandages are removed and the gift of
sight is restored. That’s hardly the case for Mireya and Guerardo. This couple knows how fortunate they are to
receive the gift of vision and don’t take it for granted. They are only two among thousands living in
this region who would live their lives with limited vision or without sight
altogether were it not for this clinic and the strong commitment of Rotarians
and the medical volunteers who make this a reality.
spring clinic ends as routinely as the other clinics have over the 30+ years of
operation. The volunteers are weary from
the countless hours worked, but their hearts are filled with a happiness that
only comes from being a part of the true miracles that take place here. As each volunteer prepares to return home, it
is with the knowledge that they leave behind the gift of vision.
is taken home is the truest understanding of Service Above Self.
- Submitted by Cynthia West, member of the Rotary
Club of Ruidoso (New Mexico) who has volunteered at this clinic twice.
- The Rotary Clinic in Guerrero Mexico is owned by
the Guerrero Rotary Club and is supported by many Rotary Clubs but particularly
the clubs in these districts: 5890 Houston, 4110 Mexico and 5810 in Dallas.
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