Working with the Gift of Sight Humanity First team was a very humbling experience. It was inspiring to see physicians and students take time out of their busy schedules for this noble cause. This entire experience has really put in perspective how blessed we are to be in a position to help those less fortunate. The more experienced members on the team did a tremendous job making new volunteers, such as myself, feel comfortable and important to the mission. This trip taught me that irrespective of your profession or age there really are no prerequisites needed for serving humanity.
My trip to Guatemala was amazing. I remember walking into the clinic early in the mornings and the patients crowding the narrow hallways. As the day progressed, that crowd got smaller and smaller. I witnessed hope change into relief as they got treatment. I am grateful to be part of such a talented and dedicated team. I am especially glad I was able to share this experience with my brother, Salam. All of our team members tried to help even in the smallest way to make a difference. The Gift of Sight was an opportunity for me that gifted me with a new perspective.
HF Guatemala returned to Salud y Paz en Chichicastenango for the one-week Gift of Sight post operation follow-up clinic. Forty-three surgery patients returned to Salud y Paz to receive their check-ups.
During my flight back to Los Angeles, I had some time to reflect on the Gift of Sight mission this year, and I’m already missing Guatemala. I’m missing my new friends and old friends, I miss Salud y Paz, and most of all, I’m going to miss David Gonzalez. For those of you who don’t know David, he is the Executive Director of Humanity First Guatemala and our personal guide during the missions. He is a wonderful man who dedicates his life to the people of his country and his religion. This is my third year knowing David, and he has been an inspiration in my life – he makes me want to be a better man in life.
I’m so grateful that I was able to return to Guatemala for a third time, and to be part of a great group of people who take time out of their busy lives and leave their families to work so hard for our cause. This year there were a lot of new faces, both current and future ophthalmologists. I was so impressed to see how eager they were to learn and ready to do their part for the mission. Each year we are getting bigger as a group, so this year we took advantage of the large medical team and set up three operating rooms. They were running all day with doctors performing cataract and pterygium surgeries. Speaking for myself, I could have never imagined us doing three ORs at once – maybe two, but not three – and this is why I’m so proud of the 2012 Gift of Sight team.
This year, I was missing my partner in crime, “the Shafty” – I knew it was going to be hard for anyone to fill the shoes of Shafat as my OR assistant. If there was anyone who would do just as great of a job as the Shaft, I know it would be my beautiful wife, Jennifer. I was so glad that my wife was able to join us this year. My wife is a restaurant manager and has no experience in the medical field, but you would not know this if you had seen her in action in the operating room. I was so proud to see how well she did assisting the doctors and me. She picked up her role as circulator so quickly, she looked like a real seasoned RN.
As I see the lights of Los Angeles, I’m glad to be back home, but it also saddens me because I know I’m not going to be able to see my brothers and sisters until next year – people like David, Dr. Syed, Saifra, and Dr. Khan. Then I guess until next year, Gift of Sight 2013, I’ll see you again my friends – counting the days ‘til then.
We have just completed our third successful mission to Guatemala, after a busy week of cataract and ptergyium surgeries. Although we have become quite experienced at running these eye camps (our third since 2010), the gratitude and appreciation we feel for the people of Guatemala always feels fresh and new when our work ends. Guatemalans are indeed a very colorful and vibrant thread in the fabric of humanity. Their smiles, their affection, their humility, and, above all, their resilience in the face of disease is truly remarkable. We brought along many new team members this time, many who were on their first international medical mission. Like me a few years ago, they arrived here enthusiastic about helping others see better. But they leave humbled and thankful to these same patients for making us better human beings.
With my less than mediocre ability to speak Spanish and let alone no Quiche dialect, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to fulfill my volunteer duties completely. Nevertheless, we walked into the clinic on day one past all the patients and what I saw besides countless smiles, were eyes full of hope. Hope, that brought a smile to my face and made me feel ever more purposeful for the mission. With the aide of translators, I was able to calm anxious patients and set up IVs with no trouble at all. The patients were all emotionally strong and made no complaints regarding any pre-operation procedures and approached their surgeries head on. In my few days spent here, I have experienced many remarkable things take place. Being able to see cataract surgery from start to finish under an ophthalmic microscope, really put things in “perspective.”