First Eye Surgery Team in Dumay

January’s mission was the culmination of planning, partnership and perseverance over many years. HAM board members, doctors Laing and Janine, had long envisioned bringing an eye surgery team to Dumay to utilize the surgery room at the Dumay clinic. Populations in tropical climes with intense sunlight are highly susceptible to cataracts, and having encountered many cataract cases at the eye clinic, they deemed the need for access to such surgeries as significant. But cataract surgeries require an operating microscope, a large and expensive piece of equipment, so in 2014 we put out a call to HAM’s network of partner organizations stating our need and requesting they keep their eyes open. Within a year, our partner the SEVA Foundation in Berkley, CA informed us that they had located a used operating microscope in good condition which could be donated through their organization. The only hitch was we would have to deal with transportation of the large microscope from Berkeley to Dumay. We immediately contacted another partner organization, Direct Relief International in Santa Barbara, CA and asked if they might allow us room on their next container shipment of supplies to Haiti for the microscope. When they generously agreed and Dr. Laing and Paul Hammond picked up the microscope in Berkeley and had it crated and trucked to Santa Barbara. The microscope departed Southern California on a ship early in 2015 and arrived in Haiti in May. After several months in a Haitian port working through the complicated Haitian customs process, we finally took possession of the microscope in Haiti last August. At the same time the microscope was leaving port in the U.S., Dr. Janine contacted an old friend from optometry school, now a successful eye surgeon, Dr. Brian Stahl, in the Dayton, OH area who had been leading eye surgery missions in Africa, South and Central America, and Jamaica, to see if he was interested in adding Haiti to his mission list. In a certain case of serendipity, Dr. Stahl had been wanting to work in Haiti but had yet to find a suitable partner there to work with. Forging a new partnership, we immediately began work on scheduling a mission to Dumay. Next, work began in Haiti to locate, educate and screen potential cataract patients in the Dumay area. HAM’s Haitian eye technician, Charles, and the Haitian ophthalmologist who visits the clinic one day a month, Dr. Marcelus, worked to get the word out, inform and screen a rural and uneducated population about the possibility and potential for individuals to gain back their sight. Fear and superstition abound in Haiti and the challenge of recruiting patients to undergo a knife carving into their eyes can not be understated. This confluence of luck and hard work would now be put to the real test when Dr. Stahl and his team of assistants from “Go Crazy do Good”, Mindi Grissom, Diana Ernst, Ashley Gullett, along with assistance from Dr. Janine and her sister and fellow HAMboard member Connie Immel Ray arrived in Dumay on January 22nd.