By Dr. Mick Vanden Bosch
Last year I went to Jolivert, Haiti for the first time.
I thought I was simply “scoping out the Eye Clinic” to see if we could do surgery. I ended up doing seven cataract surgeries, even though we had no Operating Room (OR) and limited equipment.
This year I hoped to perform 20 cataract surgeries or so. We brought everything we needed, but as I have found out many times before, on mission trips, not everything goes as planned. Not all of our equipment worked, so we improvised.
Although we still had no OR, we were able to set up a more sterile operating space. I had a wonderful nurse, Jean Horner, an OB Nurse from Washington, who was also on our Mission team. She committed to helping with the surgeries – pre-op set-up, circulating during surgery, and post-op clean up.
Cataracts in America are usually operated on when the vision drops three lines from 20/20 to 20/40, and it is difficult for the patient to maintain a driver’s license. But, in Haiti, due to limited access to health care (and in younger persons probably a nutritional component that makes cataracts mature more quickly), the vision is much worse and the surgery has to be done in a way that is much more difficult. The vision pre-op for our Haitian patients was at best 20/400 (the big “E” at the top of the chart). Most of our patients were unable to count fingers in front of their faces with a full one-half of the patients only able to see a light going on and off – not even able to detect motion. During our nine days of Eye Clinic service on this Fall trip, we were able to perform 22 cataract surgeries and 11 other various procedures for a total of 33 eye surgeries.
At the post-op visit the next day, although the communication barrier often made it difficult to ascertain just how well they were seeing, most of the patients were very grateful and praising God!
We saw at least six children on this visit that we could have helped surgically, but we didn’t have general anesthesia – Something to pray about and work towards.
Mick Vanden Bosch, MD specializes in Opthalmology and resides in South Dakota. For more information about Dr. Mick visit