Operation Sight Partner Story: Operation Access

Operation Access is an organization that helps identify patients in need of charitable medical care. Their cataract patients are treated by Operation Sight volunteers. This is one patient's story. Story courtesy of Operation Access' newsletter.

Vicenta grew up in a small Mexican village, and later lived with her family in the city of Morelia. To support her family, she made tortillas to sell at the market. Typically, she spent twelve hours each day in a smoke-filled kitchen standing over a comal (a wood-fired griddle). Years of exposure to smoke in a poorly ventilated kitchen damaged her eyes.

Vicenta moved to Sonoma in 1999 to help raise her grandkids. Over the next decade, she gradually lost her vision. For many years, stronger prescription glasses were enough for her to get by, but eventually her vision loss was so severe that everyday activities like cooking, reading, walking, and watching TV became very difficult. During a visit to Costco to get her eyes rechecked, she learned she had developed cataracts in both eyes.

Vicenta needed cataract surgery, but she and her family could not afford the cost. "It made me very sad and depressed," Vicenta said. "I cried often, not being able to see and do normal things, I felt so helpless."

Fortunately, her doctor at Sonoma Valley Community Health Center, Dr. Yen-Trang Vo referred Vicenta to Operation Access. OA referred her to Dr. Valerie Garden, an ophthalmologist in Santa Rosa who successfully removed her left cataract in late 2016 and removed her right cataract earlier this year. Both procedures took place at Santa Rosa Surgery & Endoscopy Center, a Sutter Health affiliate. "I am happy that so many people helped me, especially Dr. Garden, who made me feel very comfortable. Every day, when I wake up and open my eyes and see, I am thankful for Dr. Garden. I'd still be blind if not for her. Now I can take care of myself, my grandkids, and I can even crochet again. I'm amazed that this service is available for people like me."

"Vision is so important to overall health. It's about so much more than just glasses. As a doctor, it's a privilege to provide this care for patients like Vicenta....she has such a thankful heart," says Dr. Garden