I am Álvaro Rodríguez-Ratón, ophthalmologist in Bilbao and Getxo, and I want to tell you about my experience with the Elena Barraquer Foundation in Guinea Conakry to encourage you to participate in any way you can with this initiative.
Our mission lasted a week and consisted of attending to the maximum number of patients that the local ophthalmologists had selected to extend the exploration and to verify if they could benefit from any treatment for their visual problems. Although it is incredible for us in Spain, many of these patients were blinded by cataracts.
This disease is the world’s leading cause of reversible blindness but in certain countries such as Guinea Conakry, they do not have access to phacoemulsification surgery techniques. Therefore, a small part of the population has access to rudimentary correction methods or, in the case of the vast majority of the poor, is faced with blindness. Needless to say, this situation is disabling in a country that is not adapted to low vision living.
For all these reasons, the attention we have given has been especially useful and has rapidly improved the quality of life of hundreds of people. It is very hopeful to think that with a grain of sand we can help to balance the unfair balance that so many people are facing blindness on.
In addition to the obvious benefits for the local population, I believe that participating in these activities allows us to disconnect from our usual routine in order to be able to observe our daily priorities from a third level and compare them with those of other people who live in another reality. Therefore, we must thank the Elena Barraquer Foundation for the work it does to improve the lives of people without vision in the Third World, but also for the opportunity it gives us all to be in solidarity and to change our lives by showing us other realities.
Last but not least, we would like to highlight the magnificent team of volunteers who have accompanied us on this mission. They have created bonds of friendship and understanding that could hardly be woven under normal conditions, and that help to face all adversities with a smile.
Many thanks to the Elena Barraquer Foundation and especially to Elena herself, the soul of the project; may these words encourage you all to collaborate in the way you can in these activities, which are so necessary for everyone.
Ophthalmologist specializing in refractive surgery