Utah surgeon uses his skills to change lives

Local News

A medical procedure… Or a miracle?

The answer may depend on whether you’re the giver or the recipient of the gift.

In the conclusion of our series The Gift of Sight, we take you back to El Salvador, to see how a Utah surgeon uses his skill to change lives.

For two days, the people have come from around the region to the small town of Juayua seeking the gift of sight.

The most severe cases are the elderly, who’ve spent years working under the Salvadoran sun, and cooking over open fires totally blind.

Eye Care International project director Tad MacDonnell has obtained government authorization for surgery. He’s on his way, this morning, to the community medical clinic that’s being transformed into an eye surgery center.

This international humanitarian project is heavy on ambition and light on cash.

For Utah eye surgeon, Dr. Albert Ungricht and five nurses, it’s a do-it-yourself task.

Doctor Marco Goens, the Salvadoran eye surgeon who brought me to Juayua, also brought vital surgical supplies to donate to the cause. Juayua’s parish priest, observing the work, says the work that’s about to happen here will change the lives of locals for generations.

The first patient goes under the knife. Dr. Ungricht literally with microscopic precision, must enter beneath the outer layer of the eye, and scrape out the cataract, without touching the pupil or the cornea. Each procedure will take about an hour.

And as one is led to the hallway where they will spend the night recovering, Dr. Ungricht and his nurses are already operating on the next patient.

The next wave of patients emerge taking their places on the hallway cots for their overnight recovery.

And then… the moments of truth.

A thumbs-up and a smile say it all, in any language. Madardo can see again. And he can go home to his village and keep his bees… And support his family.

Rosa Daysi Martinez sees clearly… Enough to enjoy the faces of her grandchildren.

Coronada Arevalo can see. And with her own new pair of reading glasses, she can see clearly enough to read her Bible.

And remember Mariana de Jesus Funes Palacios? She’ll be able to see her family again.

“They call you a miracle worker around here.” “Um, I’d like to think that I’m just a person who has a skill, and I like to share it with them.”

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