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Eye surgeons help low-income Utahns see more clearly during charitable event

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Posted at 6:32 PM, Oct 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-10 20:32:21-04

SALT LAKE CITY – Saturday, eye surgeons at the Moran Eye Center performed sight-restoring surgeries to low-income Utahns in need.

They do it twice a year, every fall and spring, and the Moran Eye Center has been performing charity surgeries across the world for low-income individuals for 20 years.

They started the local program in 2012. Surgeons spent the day performing a cornea transplant on one Utah resident. Without it, she would go blind.

“I think one of the things that makes ophthalmology so powerful is that you can really change people’s lives,” Program Coordinator Michael Yei said. “Vision is so important to us. It’s the one sense that most of us would say, 'I do not want to lose.'”

Surgeons started the program three years ago, as part of an extension of their global efforts to restore people’s eyesight.

“When you lose your sight, and it’s preventable and curable, this is such a great program for allowing people to become, you know, self-sufficient, be able to work again, and be productive,” Yei said.

Many patients cannot afford surgery and do not have medical insurance. But medical staff volunteer their time and talents to restore their sight.

“I couldn’t see anything out of my eye,” said Tim Haight, an eye surgery participant. “It was like looking through a piece of wax paper.”

Haight used to work as a manager for Boeing in Seattle, but he was in a work accident several years ago and has been unable to work. He received cataract surgery on Saturday. He says he could not afford the procedure without the doctors’ help and would not be able to see without it.

“You can’t explain,” Haight said. “You could never be able to repay people that do these kinds of things, for their time and their generosity.”

University of Utah medical residents also use the event to learn about complicated eye diseases.

“These are going to be some of the toughest cases,” Yei said. “So it’s a great opportunity for them to continue their training and work with our attending [physicians] as well.”

Volunteers say it’s fulfilling to help people regain their sight.

“I mean, to see people’s lives change, and if I can do something to make their life better, it makes all the difference in the world,” Program Coordinator Lori McCoy said.

For information about how to volunteer, donate time or money, or find out if you qualify for the program, you can visit the Moran Eye Center’s website.