Dr. Paul Imperia traveled to the city of El Progreso in Honduras as part of Surgical Eye Expeditions International (SEE), and was assisted in surgery by his wife Laura. “Our team removed 50 cataracts and did 1 corneal transplant in 5 days,” he said. “It was immensely gratifying to give the gift of sight to people with extremely advanced cataracts. Many of them were completely blind, with cataracts so dense they could barely tell whether it was night or day. They stood patiently in line for surgery and were so grateful. This experience reminded me why I went into ophthalmology in the first place.”
Dr. Imperia knows what it means to be blind. Once designated as legally blind himself, he has dedicated to offering the same kind of surgical care that saved his sight to patients in Southern Oregon and around the world. “El Progreso was a great experience and, despite many challenges along the way, went very well,” Dr. Imperia said. “All the patients were severely visually impaired from cataracts, some blind in their only eye. It’s very special to give the gift of sight to people who are in such need.”
Since returning home, Dr. Imperia has been spreading the word to other surgeons of the widespread need and personal satisfaction he found on his trip to Honduras. The project was sponsored by Surgical Eye Expeditions International (SEE), a non-profit humanitarian organization that provides medical, surgical and educational services by volunteer ophthalmic surgeons to restore sight to disadvantaged blind individuals worldwide.
Founded by a California eye surgeon in 1974, SEE has coordinated the work of hundreds of surgeons in performing thousands of sight saving operations in countries throughout the world. From his experience with SEE, Dr, Imperia has come to understand just how large the need for volunteers is. “We’re very fortunate that we can do a 30 minute procedure that make such a huge difference in peoples’ lives,” he said.
In Honduras alone, the World Health Organization estimates that there are over 75,000 blinding cataracts among the Honduran population. Correspondingly, the organization has estimated that only approximately 5000 eye surgeries are performed in the country each year due to a lack of surgeons and facilities. To meet this challenge, a clinic called the Centro Cristiano de Servicios Medicos was established in El Progreso, the country’s fourth largest city (population 200,000). The clinic’s partnership with SEE has proven to be vital in bringing in the volunteer surgical expertise needed.
For more information on Surgical Eye Expeditions International, please visit the SEE International website.