Bryan Anderson was little, three or perhaps four, when his mother first brought him to see VHI doctors who were conducting clinic at the San Martin de Porres Hospital in Chinandega, Nicaragua, in the fall of 2006. Much too young to have a cataract so dense, Drs. Barr and Stern sadly noted. Surgery was performed and at post-op rounds the next morning, Bryan was all smiles. Well, he was as cheerful as any youngster could be, one day after surgery. Bryan’s vision in his once blind eye had been restored, which prompted, as post-op rounds ofter do, smiles from Dr. Barr.
It was with some trepidation that Dr. Barr greeted and then re-examined Bryan during our first return trip to Chinandega since 2006, in October 2011. He discovered dense scarring had developed behind the intraocular lens (IOL). The good news: a fairly routine surgical procedure could remove the scar tissue and restore Bryan’s vision. The bad news: the instrument with which the procedure is typically performed was not available.
Despite this, attempts were made to remove the scarring, but proved, as Dr. Barr had feared, unsuccessful. With a logical alternative in hand, Dr. Barr approached Bryan’s mother and quietly explained that the next and best step would be to obtain a referral to see ophthalmologists in Managua and have the procedure performed there. “No, no, no. You are my doctor, you are my son’s doctor,” Bryan’s mother exclaimed, in Spanish, of course. With an absence of government funding for many health care services, coupled with her own lack of resources, mother and son had few choices.
“We will wait, for you,” the emotion in her voice more hopeful than disappointed, more trusting and patient than desperate.With the assistance of one more fluent in the language, the doctor explained, “We will do the surgery when we return, next year. Trust me.”
Dr. Barr and a team of volunteers will return to Chinandega October 6-13, 2012, equipped with not only a vitrector to perform Bryan’s surgery, but with the understanding that for many thousands of adults and children in Latin America, VHI is the best and perhaps last hope for restored vision.