This is my first of hopefully many posts detailing my experiences in Honduras, where I am conducting a study with two main objectives: first, to see what kinds of eye diseases are present in Honduras and how prevalent they are in the population, and second, to measure the efficacy of medical/ocular health survey results in estimating eye health status in comparison to the diagnosis of an actual doctor’s examination.
I am currently in Honduras, and have been here since last Tuesday, June 1. I am conducting this study–the Honduras Eye Disease Study (HEDS)– at the Centro de Salud Integral ZOE eye clinic in Tegucigalpa, which is full of fantastically friendly, supportive, and extremely intelligent men and women. I will also be going on the clinic’s weekly, 2-3 day “brigadas” or Outreach brigades, in which the clinic sends two optometrists to areas outside of Tegucigalpa, the capital city. There, they conduct visual acuity screenings, provide free reading glasses to those who need it, and prescribe glasses for the myopic. Also, during this process the optometrists are on the lookout for any patients who may need surgical intervention to avoid/eliminate conditions of preventable blindness, like cataracts. Outreach cities/villages/pueblos can be 30 minutes to more than 4 hours away, so this will certainly give my study an expansive reach throughout Honduras.
This week, HEDS has come to a halt because it is “Surgery Week” at the clinic: basically, the patients who have been screened in the outreach brigades to have conditions of preventable (operatable) blindness or near-blindness are selected to come for free (yes, free) surgeries at the clinic during this week. So far, every day has been packed with 12-15 surgeries in the day. Everyone gets up when the sun rises–around 5am–and leaves as the day comes to a close, around 3-4pm. It’s a wonderfully jam-packed day, and I’ve been able to take this Surgery Week as an opportunity to observe the patients that come to the clinic, see how much many of their eye conditions have advanced to the point of blindness, and how they can SEE after the surgery! It’s so amazing, so uplifting, so exemplary of human intellect and compassion.
The study itself has been going smoothly with exception to this week. Many of the older subjects are illiterate, so I get to practice my Spanish as I read them the consent forms for them to sign. They are also more willing to do the study itself–perhaps they just have more time to chat than younger people. However, I have to pace myself since the doctor who dilates and examines the subjects also has his own patients to take care of, which I must of course respect.
One interesting thing I have noted in the brigades (which I went to last week) was that most of the people who came to the outreach camp were 1. older (60+) people, and 2. mothers/children. There were hardly any men of working age, since they were all out working. The thing is, if they have eye problems (from cataracts to just low vision, which in itself is quite debilitating), how will they be able to work effectively? It would be nice if the brigades were more worker-friendly (whether by extending hours of service or coming directly to large work sites to screen).
In any case, I will post pictures of the clinic and brigades soon! Hasta luego amigos—