Nicaragua is changing. While still one of the poorest countries in the Northern hemisphere, there seems to be a small, but tangible improvement in the economy. This is evident in the increased number of cars on the roads ( much improved infrastructure,especially since my first trip in 2002), increased sophistication and prices of the local restaurants, more tourists, cleaner streets, and newer stores. Poverty and unemployment are still at very high levels though.
There is a general lack of resources and lack of government funding for healthcare in general, especially for the underprivileged. Ophthalmic problems are rampant in Nicaragua due to environmental influences, poor hygiene and lack of income for preventative care.
This particular mission is headed up by a wonderful endocrinologist and ex patriate Nicaraguan by the name of Rudy Vargas We are part of a team which includes cardiologists, ophthalmologists, orthopedic surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and other specialists.
The clinic is held at a local hospital, where unfortunately there still is no running water or flushing toilets. Lines at the clinic were relatively long today and our eye care team was able to see 149 patients. The overwhelming number of people we saw, simply required glasses in order to see normally. There are currently over 20 million people in the third world who are legally blind based on the fact that they simply do not have eyeglasses to correct their vision.
We also encountered patients with diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, ocular injuries and advanced cataracts. All in all a tiring, but extremely rewarding day as always. What made it more special was having my son Ben with me. His Spanish prowess was indispensable in helping translate today. We returned to a general power outage in the town, and decided to go for an evening trek up the extremely active Masaya Volcano. What a sight to see the oozing lava in the steaming crater below us- awe inspiring!
Looking forward to a great day tomorrow..