What do you do when hundreds of blind people crowd into the Majuro Hospital outpatient clinic? The Canvasback Missions Ophthalmology team gets right to work! Led by Jacque Spence, co-founder of the mission and Jeffrey Ing, MD., the team is making a tremendous impact at the Majuro Hospital. By the end of the mission, the team will have completed over 200 cataract and retinal surgeries, valued at over $500,000.
When Hospital Administrator Rosabella Marty invited the team a year ago, Spence got right to work and recruited 14 team members including ophthalmologists with specialties in glaucoma, cornea, and retina. She solicited donations of supplies and equipment from Alcon, SEE International, and AMO (Advanced Medical Optics), and Bausch and Lomb. Matson Navigation donated a container to ship all the supplies.
When Majuro Hospital’s, Dr. Jose Tana, identified corneal cases for the team, Ing brought live cornea tissue and performed two successful corneal transplants on Mentine Kabo and Kamjen Kumtak.
Tana sent emails stressing the need for a retinal specialist to perform vitrectomy surgery so the team started looking for a doctor to fill the need. When the specialist was found, a portable vitrectomy was needed to support his work. Synergetics immediately stepped up and loaned their machine and donated surgical packs to do ten surgeries.”
When little five-year old Fred Jetton was diagnosed with two rapidly maturing cataracts that would soon leave him totally blind, the team took him right into surgery. When they realized that they didn’t bring a lens that would fit the little boy, the team arranged with Alcon to immediately ship the right lenses to Majuro.
Setbacks are never a deterrent for the Canvasback team. When it was discovered that all the supplies needed to do the retinal surgery had not arrived, Spence relayed the situation to Ing while he was doing cataract surgery on Michael Trevor. Immediately after his surgery, Trevor came over to the clinic and gave Spence the name of a man in Honolulu who is arranging to get the supplies to Majuro.
Canvasback team members are dedicated to helping as many people as possible. The cataract surgeries have been challenging because people have suffered for years and their cataracts are hard as rock and take longer to remove. Patients like Rosalie Benjamin were totally blind and had to be led into the clinic by a family member. The day after her surgery, she walked in all by herself. Spence says, “When you give a blind person sight, you are not only giving them a new life, you are also freeing the caregivers and giving them a new life. It’s a privilege to help the people of the Marshall Islands.”
Running a successful mission takes the years of experience that Canvasback has. But team members are quick to add, “It also takes the dedication and hard work of the hospital staff. We were so blessed to be able to work with Dr. Tana and the Majuro Hospital operating room and clinic staff. Everyone has worked hard and has been unbelievably supportive.”