A Precious Memorable Moment…

By Ophthalmologist Dr. Paul Imperia

There were so many memorable moments, but for me there was one that stood out. It was an elderly woman from Washington Island (Teraina) whom I had done cataract surgery on the day before.

She sat slumped in her chair outside the waiting area. She was blind in both eyes and we had done one of her surgeries at that point.

I helped her get up from her seat. See seemed very frail and unsteady, groping out with her arms to avoid bumping into anything, shuffling very slowly and uncertainly. I thought that, besides from being blind, she must have advanced arthritis or some neurologic condition, perhaps a previous stroke.

I took her patch off, she looked around the room, her face went from depressed to bright and a smile appeared.

She read the eye chart, her eye looked great, and I gave her the universal thumbs up.

Before I could reach to help her move to the post-op area, she popped up out of her chair and walked strongly and confidently out of the clinic. The difference in the way she walked before and after really surprised me.

It drove home how debilitated so many of these people had been, how far they had come, how long they had stayed away from home to get help and how much it was all worth it.