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A Quiet Miracle in Africa

I've seen a miracle. Some may say it was a successful surgery, but the laughter and wonder in Abraham's milk chocolate eyes as he gazed up at his mother can only be described as overwhelmingly magical. When I traveled to Namibia this past August with my father and a Surgical Eye Expedition team I met Abraham, a six-month-old baby who was born without 95% of his vision. One overcast winter morning, his mother brought him into the hospital wrapped in a bright red and blue jumpsuit. I was the fortunate volunteer who held Abraham as my father and Dr. Helena Ndume examined him. Not flashing lights, not waving hands, not even his mother's face could provoke a reaction from the baby.

As he remained motionless in my arms with a dead stare, I struggled to maintain composure. I had never seen a child's eyes so empty, lacking so much spirit and imagination. My heart hurt for Abraham as I imagined his life in darkness. His limited vision would deny him entrance into the kingdom of fantasy and enchantment that all children should experience. Without vision he would never fly through the air like Superman, crawl through a bush like GI Joe or shoot his bow and arrow like Robin Hood.

That evening Dr. Ndume, the eye surgeon who heads Namibia's Blindness Prevention Program, performed surgery on Abraham's eyes. There was no guarantee that the surgery would help him. I slept restlessly that night. I awoke often and stared at a dark wall throughout the early hours of the morning. It was a particularly cold and gloomy morning when we drove along the dirt path to the hospital in silence. After the white tape, gauze and sticky ointment were removed from Abraham's eyes, I couldn't see any physical signs of improvement. However, when my father shined a light into Abraham's eyes the baby flinched and turned his head away in shock. His delicate eyes returned to where we all stood. Abraham flashed a radiant smile and fixed his eyes upon his mother in awe. The way he traced his mother's face with his tiny fingers sent tears running down my cheeks. Shivers crawled up my spine and then danced throughout my body as he fingered her dark, coarse hair and black, silky scarf.

Abraham was reborn into a beautiful, colorful world that he could now appreciate. His life in the world of superheroes and adventure, a world of mystery and magic could now begin.

The miracle that I witnessed in Africa solidified my dreams of becoming a pediatrician. As a doctor, my father once told me that the joy of the profession was not found in money or even in the professional recognition of being well known as a good physician. He explained that the joy was in the hands you hold, in the spoken and unspoken 'thank you' of your patients and in the quiet miracles you help create. After experiencing the power of a doctor's ability to invent such wonder, I want more than ever to work hard and pursue my dream of a career as a children's doctor. Someday, I hope that I can help create a miracle for another child like Abraham.
Caitlin Colvard

Friends of Vision - In Africa

Blindness is common affliction in Africa. In Africa when an elderly family member loses vision, a grandchild usually accepts the responsibility of becoming both caregiver and guide. One often sees a blind grandparent with a hand on the shoulder of a grandchild. Once the word is out that an eye surgeon is coming to a region, blind patients and their grandchildren often walk together for days in hopes that the visiting doctors can restore vision.

For years, Dr. Colvard has worked in Africa with the Friends of Vision Foundation. This organization, founded by Dr. Colvard in 1989, provides free eye surgery to needy patients in Third World countries.

Through careful planning, these care-giving missions can be extraordinarily productive. As many as a hundred sight-restoring surgeries and clinical procedures can be performed on a single trip.

This organization, founded by Dr. Colvard in 1989, provides free eye surgery to needy patients in Third World countries. Through careful planning, these care-giving missions can be extraordinarily productive. As many as a hundred sight-restoring surgeries and clinical procedures can be performed on a single trip.

Friends of Vision - In Mexico

Dr. Colvard and Dr. Lintz have recently returned from a medical mission to Mexico, which included work in an orphanage for abandoned children in Maneadero, Baja California. "El Reino del Los Ninos," is a church-supported orphanage, which was founded in 1989 to provide love, food, clothing, shelter and medical care to needy Mexican children without other means of support. Its goal is to enable all the children to complete high school, and hopefully to pursue a college education.

Dr. Colvard and Dr. Lintz examined all the children in the orphanage and provided glasses to those children needing help with their vision. "Our desire is to help these children mature into capable adults who can have a positive and lasting impact on Mexican society," Dr. Lintz stated.

Dr. Colvard has arranged for the donation of approximately $100,000 worth of medical supplies for international eye charities. These materials, consisting primarily of surgical supplies, and which include intraocular lenses, will be used to correct conditions which have led to blindness in indigent patients in third world countries. The supplies have been promised by major manufacturers of phthalmic products including Pharmacia-Upjohn Corporation.

A surgical mission to East Africa has been tentatively scheduled for this Summer. Efforts have begun to coordinate the trip including procurement of supplies and establishment of local contacts. Local support, usually through church groups, is essential to the success of such a mission and should soon be in place.

Friends of Vision - In Brazil

Brazil is a large country with tremendous natural resources, however, the great majority of Brazilians live in poverty. Conditions for the people are made more miserable by absence of medical care, urban crowding, and poor housing.

Millions of people in the city of Sao Paulo alone live in cardboard makeshift dwellings without proper sanitation. Unlike many Third World countries, Brazil has an active medical community of highly motivated physicians.

Unfortunately, these physicians are frequently overwhelmed by the sheer number of indigent patients with serious diseases. In addition, access to modern medical technology is very limited.

During the recent surgical trip, Dr. Colvard and his colleagues were able to carry to Sao Paulo a significant amount of medical supplies and equipment. The bulk of the equipment was donated by Kabi Pharmacia, an ophthalmic company based in Pasadena, and Alcon Surgical Corporation, a Texas-based manufacturer of medical equipment.

Friends of Vision - In Baja, California

Dr. Colvard, working under the auspices of the Iglesia Pentecostes, a Protestant church with members in Los Angeles and Mexico, has begun a free eye clinic in a small agricultural village in Baja, California.

Patients seen by Dr. Colvard at the Clinic who need surgical care are brought to our facility in the San Fernando Valley where surgery is performed free of charge. The church group, under the direction of Mr. Roberto Rosalez, makes arrangements for the patients to have US visas and lodging with members of his church during the time of their treatment. In addition to seeing adult patients, Dr. Colvard and Dr. Lintz will be taking care of the eye needs of an orphanage in the same area of Baja California.

Our work also continues in facilities in Africa this year through substantial donations of medical supplies and assistance.

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