January 2020 Missions Trip
Our team has just completed its 16th mission trip to Roatan, Honduras. It’s hard to believe this all started in 2005 with a small team of volunteers who, through friends with roots in Roatan and sharing in the commitment to give back, learned there was a significant population of indigent people with no access to eye care whatsoever on the island. The few who could afford it would have to make their way to the mainland some 30 miles away. Most would never see an eyecare provider. This initial visit confirmed a high incidence of glaucoma and advanced cataracts; two diseases easily treated in the US devastated the lives of many people living in Roatan. We made the commitment to come back and address the problem, no matter how long it took, and determined to make a lasting impact.
Since this all began, we have experienced tremendous growth and interest in other doctors getting involved. Our little clinic we worked out of in the Oak Ridge community, one of the poorest areas of Roatan, has recently become too small for our growing teams. Until we acquire two permanent facilities to cover the entire population of around 60,000 residents, we are working out of two temporary clinic sites. We still have a presence in Oak Ridge, working out of a church annex used as a general medical clinic and known to the community as New Life Clinic. There, we are able to do regular eye exams and dispense glasses donated for the mission. For surgical procedures, which overwhelmingly are cataract cases, we are working out of the more centrally located Vessels of Mercy Clinic in French Cay.
Both sites served us well for this trip which ran from January 25th – February 1st. Our group of 15 consisted of myself (Darin Bowers), my wife & surgical RN Pam Bowers, surgical RN Susan Barnett, ophthalmic technicians Debbie Anderson, Shawn Jennings and Caroline Luchinni (assisted by her husband Athos), 1st year ophthalmology resident Dr. Craig Mitcham and wife Olivia, and Courtney Cooper who managed our surgical autoclave. Our daughter Jocelyn Miller handled patient check-in while her husband Elliot, a professional videographer, documented our experience. We were also privileged to host ophthalmologist Dr. Leana Long from Williamsburg, VA and oculoplastic surgeon Dr. Jenny Yu from Pittsburg, PA (who also helped establish her own mission outreach known as Project Theia. Dr. Yu was assisted by her nurse, Kathy Sedory. All in all, we were able to see over 250 patients, perform 19 sight restoring cataract surgeries, 5 oculoplastic procedures, diagnose and treat many new cases of glaucoma and refer out one patient with a retinal detachment who would have likely progressed to blindness if untreated. We could not have functioned adequately without the assistance of New Life Clinic administrator Gretta Johns and her husband, pastor David Johns.
As is our tradition, we also hosted a children’s Bible school led by my wife Pam where we taught and played with 50 children from the Oak Ridge community. Investing in the lives of youth has always been a priority for us and something we look forward to every year.
The next team of volunteers, arriving March 21st and led by Drs. Paul and Amy Kang of Washington DC, will include a team of ophthalmologists including Drs. Daniel Solverson (Wisconsin), Pulin Shah (Louisiana), Theresa Turla (Louisiana), and Jonathan Solomon (Maryland).
Join us in our goal to build two permanent facilities to serve all of Roatan with high quality eye care. A dedicated clinic will remain in the east end Oak Ridge area while a clinic / ambulatory surgery center is in the planning stages for the west end. With the eventual recruitment of local Honduran eye doctors, it is our hope to serve in a supportive capacity towards a self-sustaining clinic serving all of Roatan. We are well on our way!