Mann Eye’s own Dr. Luke Barker recently partnered with Benevolent Missions International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing needed ophthalmic care to the underserved in many areas around the world, for a trip to rural Corozal, Belize.
The eight-day trip (four days in the clinic and four in the operating room) to Corozal marks the second time Dr. Barker, a refractive surgeon at Mann Eye Institute, was able to serve on a medical mission trip. Dr. Barker was joined on the trip by Mann Eye Institute optometrist Dr. Mintra Sattam and ophthalmic surgical technician Denise Lindgren.
“It was an immense blessing to be able to go. It was very rewarding,” said Dr. Barker. “The need is so great in this area, we saw over 100 patients per day in clinic over the four days. It was a very busy schedule.”
Dr. Barker personally performed a total of 50 surgeries—a combination of cataract surgery and pterygium surgery— over the course of the trip. Pterygium (sometimes called surfer’s eye) is commonly found in tropical climates due to the near-constant exposure to the sun’s harmful rays. Because of the poverty in Corozal and the surrounding areas, many people do not have access to even basic healthcare, so vision problems that could easily be corrected often go undetected for years, ultimately resulting in blindness.
“Some of these patients’ vision was profoundly impaired before they came to see us,” said Dr. Barker. “They could no longer see well enough to cook for themselves or work or take care of themselves at all. Many of them had to be led into the clinic by a family member.”
Fortunately, through the collaborative efforts of the Mann Eye team, these patients’ lives were changed forever.
“People who were so blind they couldn’t even see their hand in front of their face, with a simple eye surgery that takes anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, the next day they’re able to see their kids, they’re able to see their families,” said Dr. Barker. “It makes a huge impact in their life. They can drive, they can get jobs, they can do all the things they need to do to succeed in life.”
Dr. Barker says he has plans to go again, and that the feeling of helping so many people see is amazing.
“The people we served were so gracious and thankful for the care we were able to give them during our stay. It’s such an awesome feeling to be able to change someone’s life forever,” said Dr. Barker. “There is nothing like the feeling of seeing the happiness in patients’ eyes and the joy on their faces when they are able to see again,” said Dr. Barker.
As for what drives and inspires Mann Eye’s work in the mission field, Dr. Barker says it all comes down to love.
“Love of your fellow man I would say is the most important thing,” said Dr. Barker. “We’re all equal, we’re all valuable, and giving to those who have had a harder life and haven’t had the luxuries we have in this country, is one thing that Mann Eye tries to does to show the love.”