My name is Angie Deml and I’ve been a registered nurse in the Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea for over 20 years. This was my third medical mission trip to Colombia with Children’s Vision International. Each year we offer medical/surgical care, dental care, respiratory care, wound care, haircuts, and evangelism. This was our first year offering an eye clinic as well. We brought over 1600 pairs of eyeglasses from the Lion’s recycling center in Wisconsin. These are eyeglasses that have been donated from all over the Midwest and labeled with the prescription on each pair of glasses. Our team consisted of doctors, nurses, dentists, optometrists, medics, barbers, and respiratory therapists. The team comes from all parts of the USA as well as the UK with numbers adding up to around 70 when you add in the interpreters and helpers from Colombia. We travel to remote locations in Colombia where the need is recognized by the government and overseen by the local pastor and mayor. This year we traveled to Bolivar, Puente Nacional, and Patio Bonito. There we seen 4650 patients with over 1000 people seen the first day.
A typical day consisted of being greeted by hundreds of people already standing in line that went on for blocks. Many had walked over four hours from their homes in the mountains to get to our clinic. Some had started walking at 1:00 am to assure they would be seen that day. Once registered, they would proceed to triage where they would get their height, weight, first set of vital signs, and chief complaint. While waiting, an evangelism team would perform a drama. From triage they would decide if they wanted medical, dental, or optical attention.
The days would last till dark which would be around 5:30pm. Knowing many had walked hours and waited hours, it was difficult to turn anyone away at the end of the day. On the first day, after attending such a high volume of people, there was that famous phrase “can you just see one more”? An 8 year old girl came to us with her mother who proceeded to tell us her concerns regarding her lazy eye. Our optometrist determined she needed a +7 lens to correct her vision. We knew the inventory of glasses we had brought down and knew there was nothing that strong. However, there was a pink pair, with no prescription known, just thrown in the tote with the other glasses. We had the doctor check the prescription and sure enough they were perfect. The little girl couldn’t thank us enough. Her mother had tears of joy, along with everyone else in the room. Seeing the faces of everyone getting their glasses and seeing the visual acuity charts or being able to read the letters right in front of them was so gratifying. Their smiles got larger as their vision got clearer. Many tears of gratitude and pure joy of seeing were shed by many. They continued to thank us for coming and we received many kisses and blessings in return.
The days were long and hard, but every day was so rewarding knowing you made a difference in so many lives. Over 600 people received glasses while we were there. That’s 600 more people seeing the world in a whole new way that we can so easily take for granted. I appreciate the resources that we have so readily available and don’t take for granted the healthcare we have. These trips help remind me of this and to appreciate all that we have.