Zambabwe 2010

“A friend of mine from youth grew up in Zimbabwe at a mission hospital. He eventually became an incredibly talented general surgeon and went back to the same mission hospital in “the bush” of Zimbabwe.

Though he is a general surgeon, he does a very good job on no-stitch small incision cataract extraction, having learned it from a visiting ophthalmologist a few years ago. However, he didn’t know how to choose implants. He had no keratometry, nor an A-scan, nor a way to refract patients.

The patients had no access to any other eye care. They routinely ended up seeing better than before the surgery, however every male patient received a 21 diopter IOL and every female a 22 diopter IOL.

My 22-year old son and I just returned this week from visiting him. Though I performed no surgery, it was a rewarding trip. We donated a new Retinomax, so he could perform portable keratometry and autorefraction. We also donated along a new Palmscan A-scan. I spent the week teaching him how to use these while my son, a computer geek, helped address several computers issues they had elsewhere on the compound.

The Zimbabwe doc just e-mailed me that a patient came in for an eye evaluation with minimal cataract. Previously he would have sent her away. However, because of the Retinomax scan, he realized her refraction was -10.00 with +1.25 diopters of cylinder. He put this in a trial frame and the patient saw 20/30. She had not had glasses for over 10 years.

The next goal is to find some affordable eye glasses to patients who are often as poor as the patient I offered bread, apologizing that I had no butter. The translator told me, “It’s OK. She only has butter once a year, on Christmas if she can save enough money.”

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