Based on the IAPB Vision Atlas data, approximately 2 million individuals in Guatemala are affected by vision impairment. 0.52% of the population is blind (94,000 people) as compared to 0.19% in the United States. These numbers serve as a stark reminder of the urgent need for specialized eye care in Guatemala. The situation is especially alarming in remote areas where people experience challenging living conditions and perilous work environments. This can exacerbate vision-related issues, potentially leading to dire consequences if left untreated.
The Health & Help clinic has been striving to bridge the gap in healthcare services in the area, where access to primary healthcare itself is a challenge. However, because we don’t have ophthalmologists on our team, patients in need of specialized eye care have to seek help in city hospitals. Many cannot afford it in terms of money and time.
In light of these challenges, this year we have been lucky to collaborate with Dr. Ruddy Ortiz and Dr. Pamela Guzmán – ophthalmologists specializing in surgical and anterior eye segment subspecialties.
At first, Dr. Ruddy Ortiz offered remote consultations to our clinic’s doctors. His invaluable insights provided much-needed guidance in complex cases. Gradually, his commitment transcended virtual boundaries, as he began attending to some patients in the capital city.
The turning point arrived with the organization of a medical mission, a “jornada,” which brought Dr. Ortiz to the clinic’s doorstep in February this year. The event marked a remarkable milestone, as he attended to approximately 30 patients and selected four individuals for free cataract surgeries. The surgeries were performed on the very next day, granting renewed vision to those who had long suffered.
A following visit a few months later saw the collaboration expand with the arrival of another surgeon, Dr. Pamela Guzmán. Together, they assessed the eyes of 43 patients and identified 10 candidates for transformative surgeries. Two individuals have already undergone successful operations, each surgery unveiling a story of restored hope and improved sight.
The journey towards enhancing eye care has been a learning experience. The first “jornada” prompted valuable lessons in terms of organization, queue management, and preliminary patient assessments. The next visit was marked by greater efficiency, thanks to the meticulous planning led by our Nurse, Lee Kirby. We are continuously improving and adapting to provide optimal medical services to our patients. Therefore, in the future, similar collaborations will be even more streamlined and effective.
Our gratitude to Dr. Ruddy Ortiz and Dr. Pamela Guzmán is immeasurable, as the collaboration embodies a success story worth celebrating. Their dedication has brought the gift of sight to those who needed it most. The Health & Help clinic extends its heartfelt “Thank you” to these ophthalmologists, recognizing their contributions as catalysts for change and beacons of light in the realm of specialized medical care.