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  • Marie Kloor

A Life Changing Experience

The operating room of the Naval Hospital of Zihuatanejo felt like a world away from my desk in downtown Manhattan. However, the experience I left with only makes me want to go back. As I reflect on the week spent in Zihua, what really stands out is the people – both the people we served and the people that joined the Mission to serve.

The people we served traveled from towns near and far and had been waiting for their scheduled surgery for months. As they were led into the operating room for their cataracts/pterygium surgery they remained stoic and calm. I can only imagine how nervous they were not knowing almost anything about the surgery about to be performed, only knowing that afterwards they may be able to see again. After the surgery was finished, many expressed gratitude. However, that did not prepare us for the outpouring of love from both the patients and their families that we received on the last day, when the patients came back for their final check-ups. Those that received surgery had to protect their eyes with sunglasses. Looking out at the 150 sunglasses staring back at me brought tears to my eyes. I realized that not only were the lives of the patients changed, but the lives of their families were changed as well. Part of my job in the operating room was to lead the patients to the raised bed they would lay on while the surgery was performed. Sometimes this was the most difficult part, as many of the patients could not see out of one or both eyes, and stepping up onto a bed was challenging. Their families took care of them every single day in this way. Repairing the vision of one person had a tremendous impact on their family as well.

The quality of the people that joined the Mission was also inspiring. Every person was hard working and willing to help in whatever way was needed. No one complained about difficult cases or longer days; instead a common phrase was “How can I help?” I was humbled to be able to work alongside such generous and talented people willing to give their time and talents to those in need. Many, if not most, of the people we served would not have had access to any kind of eye surgery without the time and effort devoted by those on the Mission. The experience has inspired me to look at my own life and think how I can help those around me. 

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