Center For Sight donated over 100 free cataract surgeries for people who have no insurance and no means to pay on Wednesday, June 5, 2013, and Wednesday, June 12, 2013, all as part of its annual Mission Cataract program at Center For Sight’s state-of-the-art, AAAHC-accredited surgery facility in Sarasota. The surgeries were performed by Dr. David Shoemaker, Dr. William Lahners, Dr. Joshua Kim, Dr. William Soscia, Dr. Brandon Parrott and Dr. William Mestrezat, and supported by a team of anesthesiologists, medical technicians, nurses and administrative staff, all of whom donated their services.
Most patients were from Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, with some traveling from as far away as Tennessee and Georgia. After suffering for over 11 months from blindness caused by cataracts in both eyes, Thurman Adams, Jr. of Bushnell, Florida, had waited a long time for the opportunity to get the treatment he needed. “You have to be strong-minded to go through your daily tasks without eyesight, and it gives you a different perspective on life,” he said. “I look forward to doing all I was able to do before I lost my sight, and especially focusing on helping others like the doctors helped me today.”
“With fewer surgeons throughout the country participating in Mission Cataract, paired with the economic downturn and the resulting unemployment levels, we have seen more patients today than ever with advanced cataract conditions that have gone untreated for too long,” said Dr. David Shoemaker, Founder and Director of Cataract and Lens Replacement Surgery at Center For Sight. “It is not ok that these people suffer because they cannot pay. Once you’ve seen the impact these surgeries have on the patients and their lives, there is no other option than to help them.”
Lanelle Wolters from Tarpon Springs, Florida, is one such patient. “I’ve been blind for over two and a half years. I couldn’t see anything, I couldn’t do anything, and my husband had to help me with everything just to get through the day,” she said. “You don’t know what restoration of sight means when you go so long without being able to see and do the things you love. I’m so glad I found Center For Sight and the Mission Cataract program, and I wish there were more people like them.”
For Antoinette Alderman of New Smyrna Beach who had gone over a year with impaired vision caused by severe cataracts in both eyes, sight restoration also meant the first time to see her grandson. “More than anything I am looking forward to seeing my kids and my new grandson, who just turned eight months old,” she said before her procedure with Dr. Lahners, the surgeon who performed her surgery. “I want to see the world again. Without Dr. Lahners, I wouldn’t have that chance.”
Shelby Hobbs of Leoma, Tennessee, was also excited for the opportunity to regain her sight after her surgery with Dr. Shoemaker. “We traveled all the way to Florida for this opportunity,” she said. “I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t read, I couldn’t see anything, and it got to where I would just stay in bed. I can’t thank Dr. Shoemaker enough for making my life worth living again.”
To ensure ongoing funding of its charitable efforts, Center For Sight formed the Center For Sight Foundation in 2012, a donor-advised fund of Gulf Coast Community Foundation. Its mission is to provide world-class surgical care to prevent avoidable blindness in patients who cannot afford treatment. Center For Sight Foundation supports and expands the Mission Cataract project, with donations going directly to help purchase pre-operative, surgical and post-operative medications and supplies, including the artificial lenses that are implanted into patients’ damaged eyes. To qualify, patients were required to have poor vision due to cataracts that is uncorrectable with glasses; no Medicare, Medicaid, or third-party insurance coverage; and no other means to pay for cataract surgery. Center For Sight’s nationally recognized ophthalmologic and optometric physicians, and other clinical professionals, individually contribute their service, and Center For Sight donates the use of its state-of-the-art, AAAHC-accredited surgery center.
Cataract surgery uses an operating microscope and is performed inside the eye through an incision. The surgeon removes the eye’s natural crystalline lens, which has lost its transparency and caused blurred or distorted vision. Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure, and stitches are often not required. In most cases, the patient can use their eye soon after surgery and do return home the same day.