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News | May 17, 2019

New Horizons Ophthalmology Teams Give 262 Guyanese the Gift of Sight

By Senior Airman Derek Seifert, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs

U.S. military ophthalmology teams deployed in support of New Horizons exercise 2019 and partnered with Guyanese doctors at the Port Mourant Hospital in Port Mourant, Guyana, May 6-16, 2019.

The ophthalmology center at the Port Mourant Hospital was established to provide aid to the Guyanese population by screening and selecting patients to receive cataract and pterygium surgery in support of NH19.

Many of the Guyanese patients have been waiting years to receive either cataract or pterygium surgery to regain their vision.

“Normally, we see over 1,500 patients a month and we have a backlog of over 800 patients who have been waiting for surgery, some over five years,” said Dr. Devendra Radhy, Port Mourant Hospital doctor in charge. “Unfortunately, the ophthalmology clinic was unable to perform cataract surgeries until last week when we had a team partnered with a Guyana doctor who was able to do 22 surgeries. That was a kick start and hopefully we can continue this flow and get through our backlog.”

According to Rahdy, cataract and pterygium surgery can cost between $80,000 to $100,000 Guyanese dollars, which is close to $500 U.S. dollars. Many of the patients range between the ages of 50 to 80 and are poor, with an average annual household income of less than $4,000 U.S. dollars.

With the support of the U.S. military and NH19, Radhy has seen a dramatic change in his patients.

“Having the Americans here at this moment changes everything in the sense of how people look at the ophthalmology center,” said Radhy. “They can readily say that we are providing the service they have been waiting for a long time for. With this, you can see a different look in the patients, it’s more positive. Even from last Monday, when we started calling the patients, you see more smiles, laughing and joy knowing they will have the surgery done.”

This exercise provides U.S. military members an opportunity to train for an overseas deployment. It promotes bilateral cooperation by providing opportunities for U.S. and partner nation military engineers, medical personnel and support staff to work and train side by side.