Walking through the hall of a small clinic in Managua, Nicaragua, I met Stanley.
Stanley had cataracts and had lost all hope of keeping his eyesight. He was slowly slipping into a life of dependency on others. But physicians at the clinic were able to perform a simple procedure on Stanley, and today, he can see.
I visited the clinic in July 2011. People from all over Nicaragua travel to receive free eye-care for medical issues like cataracts, minor eye injuries, and complications from diabetes which are easily treatable in the United States. But because of their poverty and lack of access to medical care, people in Nicaragua lose their eyesight to these treatable issues.
Before Rotary began helping the clinic, it didn’t have the supplies needed to perform necessary surgeries. The physicians made do with what they had and were able to help only a handful of patients a day.
Several years ago, Dr. Jonathan Walker from Fort Wayne, Indiana, was introduced to the clinic. He saw the potential for sustainability and a real willingness on the part of the physicians to help people and teach new physicians. He reached out to Rotarians in District 6540 and over the past few years, he and the organization have raised enough money to provide the clinic with diagnostic equipment, surgical tools, sterilization machines, teaching tools and more. Today, the clinic sees over 600 patients a day.
I heard many stories like Stanley’s about how things used to be and how they had to cope with what they had. One doctor told us this story: a man came in with something in his eye. The doctor’s only choice was to slash it open and ask the patient to lean forward so she could smack him on the back of the head in order to dislodge it. That was the extent of their technology.
Now they can screen, diagnose, treat and perform surgeries at the facility. With the new equipment, they are able to train new doctors and send them into remote villages, reaching people who would have never received the care they need.
My Rotary moment occurred that afternoon in the clinic administrator’s office. I am so proud to be a Rotarian. I am forever changed because of the people of Nicaragua who give so much to each other every day.