Dr. Richard Reichert and his wife, Jill, comprise our visiting Ophthalmologist team. Their third trip to Loma de Luz was this past February. During his time here, Dr. Reichert performed 20 surgeries. The two weeks that they were here the rain poured down in buckets. Rivers were “impossibly unpassable” as one friend said, and many patients were unable to keep their appointments. There was one patient and his wife that did not let the swelling rivers and drenching rain stop them. Having journeyed for hours on a trip that normally takes 20 minutes on a bus, they arrived late Friday afternoon after all of the surgeries had been performed. Upon examining him, Dr. Reichert found that he had a very dense cataract and could barely see light and that he also had a pterygium, which is a growth on the eye from sun damage, which needed to be removed. He was prepped for surgery immediately and taken to the O.R. During this whole time it continued to rain cats and dogs. How they made it home after the surgery is unknown, but how they returned the next day for the follow-up appointment is:
It was 8 am on Saturday, the day before Valentine’s Day, called Dia del Amor here, when we opened the eye clinic just for this patient. It was urgent that he be checked and receive medications to protect his eye from infection and to help heal the incisions. It had rained all night. This couple lives in Rio Esteban, a Garifuna village about five miles from the hospital. Between the hospital and Rio Esteban there are two rivers that cross the road. Since the rain had not stopped in nearly 48 hours both of these rivers were fast, full, and furious. Rio Esteban had overrun its banks two days earlier and was at a width that most locals had never seen before. (See picture at right.) The couple, we’ll call them Mr. and Mrs. G, had called the hospital early that morning to confirm that they were indeed going to try to get here. After waiting nearly an hour and a half and knowing that they had left their home on foot three and half hours earlier, we were discouraged and worried about them. Then we heard a knock at the clinic door and opened it to find both of them safe and sound. We celebrated their arrival with amazement and a heart-felt welcome.
After the celebration of their arrival, Dr. Reichert quickly began the post-op exam. The bandages and the protective eye patch were removed from Mr. G’s eye. The lighting was dimmed in the room as Mr. G began the E-chart exam. With a beautiful smile on his face, he began to slowly nod his head and with exuberance read the letters he could see. Mr. G’s eyesight, only one day post-op, was already 50 to 60% better! Mrs. G was sitting in a different area of the room where it was dark as her husband read the E-chart. As we turned the lights on in the room, Mr. G was walking to the area where his wife was sitting. As he passed her, he turned around, gazed upon her face and with a gentle smile said, “It has been a very long time since I have seen your lovely face.” They both smiled and then began to laugh together. We all shared in the joyful moment together. Since the next day was el Dia del Amor, we began having fun with them saying this year he would enjoy celebrating with her all the more. There was so much joy between them and you can see it in their beaming smiles and faces!
I look forward to seeing them again in a few weeks to learn how much better his eyesight is and to talk with them again. I will ask him about how his life has changed since his operation. I will ask them if they understand what it means to walk by faith and not by sight. I will make sure that the name of the Lord is glorified through this miracle of sight.