For the fifth year running, Roanoke Valley Center for Sight performed pro bono surgeries to remove cataracts from patients in need on Friday, Dec. 14. This year, 14 patients received the gift of sight.
Dr. Stuart Tims of Vistar Eye Center and Dr. William Thompson of Eye Care and Surgery performed the 10-minute surgeries for the pre-screened patients. Those without a way to pay and those without insurance (many of whom are too young to qualify for Medicare or Medicaid) had to be pre-approved for the surgeries by the center. Without this gift, the surgery costs nearly $3,000.
Tims, a graduate of Cave Spring High School, is in his first year of practice with Vistar Eye Center.
“I knew the program was in place, and being the youngest member of the group, I knew they wanted me to be involved,” Tims said of the program.
The results from the surgery are instant, according to Beth Kolnok of B2C Enterprises, who helped to market the event. Patients are awake and under light sedation during the surgery, so they only feel a bit of discomfort or pressure, Kolnok says.
Most of the people who are affected by cataracts are generally older–in their 60s or 70s, according to Tims. But many of the patients receiving surgeries on Friday were a bit younger than that; age isn’t the only contributing factor when it comes to cataracts.
“Certain medications (like steroids), diabetes, smoking and nutritional deficiencies can all cause cataracts,” Tims said. But there are things we can do to prevent cataracts, according to Tims, like eat a “good balanced diet, limit exposure to UV light and no smoking.”
For Roanoke County resident Vyncent Ford, one of the patients getting a second chance at sight on Friday, cataracts run in his family. Before his surgery, he was unmistakably nervous, but he was looking forward to being able to see better.
“I’m going to try to take care of ‘em. I’m starting over now,” he said.
Most patents are so excited to have this opportunity, Kolnok said, that they would do anything in order to see again.
“Last year, we had a patient who hadn’t seen her grandchildren–ever,” said Kolnok. “She rolled over and said, ‘That’s what you look like!’ “