Sat | Apr 4, 2020

US group brightens day with free eye surgery at UHWI

Published:Tuesday | February 18, 2020 | 12:23 AMDanae Hyman/Staff Reporter
Team members of the Maimonides Medical Center in New York and The University of the West Indies conduct a procedure on an unidentified patient during an American Friends of Jamaica operation last week.
Team members of the Maimonides Medical Center in New York and The University of the West Indies conduct a procedure on an unidentified patient during an American Friends of Jamaica operation last week.

Seeking to cauterise diabetic retinopathy in Jamaica, the American Friends of Jamaica (AFG) joined forces with Dr Norman Saffa, chairman of ophthalmology at Maimonides Medical Center in New York, and the ophthalmology division at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), to gift more than 15 patients free eye surgery.

According to AFG, diabetic retinopathy affects an estimated one-third of people with diabetes and is the leading cause of blindness and vision loss in adults aged 35-50.

With the primary goal of the mission being to perform operations on people suffering from blindness or poor vision and to also reduce the backlog of patients requiring surgery, the doctors saw patients coming from as far as St Elizabeth and Manchester to receive treatment at the host hospital in Kingston.

Dr Lizette Mowatt, head of UHWI’s ophthalmology division, said the medical team endured a hectic five-day schedule, from February 9-13, with all-day surgeries and patient examination, and described the mission as a “phenomenal success”.

“It had a positive impact on the patients who have been waiting for several weeks or months for their surgeries. Not only were we able to operate on patients, we were also able to do intravitreal avastin injections and laser treatment,” Mowatt told The Gleaner.

AFG reported that the philanthropic organisation also joined forces with Obris International, a New York-based global blindness prevention group. The programme also benefited from the services of two nurses and an anaesthesiologist free of cost.

The surgeons conducted 15 major surgeries as well as other procedures.

Mowatt and his team also conducted lectures to an audience of 16 doctors at the end of each day, training them in the latest ophthalmic techniques and providing instruction to medical students.

“Jewish tradition dictates that we participate in tikun olam – making the world a better place. What better way to do that than by helping to restore vision to people who may not have access to the latest sight-saving technologies,” Saffa said.

AFG reported that all patients who received treatments were recovering well and that it was looking forward to conduct more surgeries on its next batch of patients.

danae.hyman@gleanerjm.com