Sarasota, Florida – March 26, 2012 – Center For Sight surgeons performed 41 free cataract surgeries for people who have no insurance and no means to pay on Friday, March 23, 2012, at its state-of-the-art surgical center in Sarasota. Next Friday, March 30, Center For Sight will perform dozens more free surgeries, all as part of Mission Cataract USA, a nationwide project involving eye surgeons throughout the United States. However, Center For Sight is the only participating facility in all of Florida. Most patients were from Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, with a few traveling from as far away as Alabama and Georgia. The surgeries were performed by Dr. David Shoemaker, Dr. William Lahners, Dr. Joshua Kim and Dr. William Soscia, and supported by a team of Center For Sight certified nurse anesthetists, medical technicians, nurses and administrative staff. All the professional services are completely donated.
Ivan Goldstein, 57, of Sarasota had a cataract removed from his left eye, having had his right eye treated at Center For Sight as part of last year’s Mission Cataract project. “My vision has always been poor since I was a kid,” he said. “This will be the first time in my life I’ve been able to see well. I’m looking forward to being able to drive, and do simple things like going to the supermarket and seeing what I’m buying.”
People such as Mr. Goldstein are the reason Center For Sight added a second day of surgeries this year, so patients don’t have to wait a full year to have the operation performed on their second eye.
“It’s a privilege to be in a position to help people who are facing completely preventable blindness,” said Dr. David Shoemaker, Founder and Director of Cataract and Lens Replacement Surgery at Center For Sight. “Our Mission Cataract patients are different from the patients we see the rest of the year. Most of them have an advanced condition that has gone untreated for years, and surgery is necessary not only to improve their vision but to save their sight.”
Brian Penambere, a 51-year-old truck driver from Bradenton, is one such patient. “I hadn’t seen a doctor in years,” he said. “About three weeks ago, my depth perception was so bad I was stumbling around, knocking things over. I saw a doctor at Manatee Rural Health Clinic, who said my lens was stuck to the retina and I had pressure behind my eye. They put me in touch with Center For Sight. I recently lost my job and my insurance, so I’m extremely grateful for their help.”
That gratitude was echoed throughout the busy operating area on Friday, as staff wheeled patients in and out of surgery with clockwork precision and compassionate care.
As David Smith, 48, an artist and laborer from Clearwater, was brought out of surgery, the dramatic improvement in his vision was apparent. “Oh, wow,” he exclaimed loudly, “It’s amazing!”
After a thorough briefing by Cindy Dumas, R.N., on the procedure for administering eye drops, Mr. Smith shared his feelings about Dr. William Lahners, the surgeon who performed his surgery. “He’s the man! I love this guy,” he said. “My vision started getting progressively worse about six years ago. I was taking my life in my hands driving because I couldn’t see the traffic lights. I was starting to panic because I haven’t been able to work. Once I get back to work and get a little extra cash, I’d like to make a donation to help other people get this surgery.”
Karen Julian, 50, of Port Charlotte is also looking forward to getting back to work. “This is going to be a major help,” she said. “I was in telemarketing, but haven’t been able to work because I can’t see the computer screen. Maybe I’ll go back to school now and train for something else.”
To ensure ongoing funding of its charitable efforts, Center For Sight recently formed Center For Sight Foundation, a donor-advised fund of Gulf Coast Community Foundation. Its mission is to provide world-class surgical care to prevent avoidable blindness in patients who cannot afford treatment. Center For Sight Foundation will support and expand the Mission Cataract project, with donations going directly to help purchase pre-operative, surgical and post-operative medications and supplies, including the artificial lenses that are implanted into patients’ damaged eyes. To qualify, patients were required to have poor vision due to cataracts that is uncorrectable with glasses; no Medicare, Medicaid, or third-party insurance coverage; and no other means to pay for cataract surgery. Center For Sight’s nationally recognized ophthalmologic and optometric physicians, and other clinical professionals, individually contribute their services. Center For Sight donates the use of its state-of-the-art, AAAHC-accredited surgery center.
Cataract surgery is microsurgery. It uses an operating microscope and is performed inside the eye through an incision. The surgeon removes the eye’s natural crystalline lens, which has lost its transparency, causing blurred or distorted vision. Today, modern cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure. With the advent of small incision cataract surgery, often stitches are not required. In most cases, the patient can use their eye soon after surgery and return home the same day.