Moran Volunteers Deliver the Gift of Sight

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On Saturday, March 22, 2014, 17 patients suffering from debilitating vision loss received life-changing surgeries at the Moran Eye Center on the campus of the University of Utah. The event marked the third year of Moran’s bi-annual Charitable Saturday Surgery Day—a unique program that requires months of planning, generous donations, more than 40 volunteers: technicians, nurses, doctors, and residents—who are willing to give freely of their time.

Officially launched by Moran’s Jeff Pettey, MD, Moran’s Residency Program Director, and two medical students, Charitable Saturday Surgery Day is now an established outreach effort that gives the institution a chance to give back to the community. “We’ve been doing this for a few years now,” noted Pettey. “But I’m never able to capture in words how it feels to see patients in need be able to go back to work or be more independent after surgery.” Pettey joins several Moran doctors and residents who regularly volunteer time at Salt Lake’s Fourth Street Clinic and Maliheh Free Clinic, the Glendale Community Learning Center, and the Park City People’s Health Clinic to provide preventive care and
basic vision screenings for patients. While there, they also screen for severe disease or eye damage. When they come across a patient who requires more extensive care or surgery, volunteers begin a comprehensive patient advocacy process, and patients are sometimes referred to the Charitable Saturday Surgery Day program to receive care.

Changing Lives

This past Saturday’s schedule included one cornea transplant, seven white cataract surgeries, and nine cataract surgeries.

Maria Rodriguez, a 44-year-old woman who has lived with a severely damaged cornea that rendered her blind from severe astigmatism, was especially excited and hopeful—also very nervous. Her extended family rallied around her offering comfort and support, before and after her procedure in which Dr. Mark Mifflin performed a cornea transplant called a “penetrating keratoplasty” that will allow her to see and return to work in food service.

Cement truck driver Kevin Scow, age 56, had a second cataract removed—one that was keeping him from the work he loves. “When you’re driving 40 tons of concrete around, you’d better be able to see—and you certainly don’t want to injure anyone because you’re trying to drive with one eye squinting,” he said. “I had to step away from the truck because it wasn’t safe, but now I’m eager to get back and drive for another 20 years.”

Kapiolani Pauni, a 51-year-old father of eight and grandfather to “almost” 11, was blinded by a white cataract. Even though he was still struggling to do construction work and painting and “trying to get by,” his daughter has had to drive him everywhere, and he was slowly losing independence. White or opaque cataracts are more difficult than most--generally denser or harder and often require that physicians use complex techniques to remove them. Pauni’s surgery took longer than most cataract operations but was a success.

Doctors who donated their services on March 22 include Mark Mifflin, MD; Jeff Pettey, MD; Geoff Tabin, MD. Residents Leah Owen, MD; Brian C. Stagg, MD; Brian Zaugg, MD; and Zachary Joos, MD.

This Charitable Saturday Surgery Day was underwritten by the Herbert I. and Elsa B. Michael Foundation; supported by over 40 Moran Eye Center volunteers; supported by donors to the Moran Eye Center and Night for Sight volunteers and participants; and the following organizations who donated supplies, medication, equipment, cataract lenses, and tissue:

• Abbott Medical Optics: intraocular lenses; sterile supplies; durable medical equipment
• ALCON: Sterile supplies; post-op medications
• Allergan: Post-op medications
• Synergy: Drapes and supplies
• Utah Lions Eye Bank: Eye tissue

All clinical services and programs are part of University of Utah Hospitals & Clinics