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Lifting the Burden of Blindness: John A. Moran Eye Center Restores Vision to Widowed Mother, 17 Others on Operation Sight Day

Meri Reid, 57, lost her husband last year. Months later, she lost her eyesight to cataracts.

It's been hard for Reid to relinquish her role as the primary caregiver in her family. She nursed her late husband through a years-long battle with heart failure, and an in-law through illness. Even now, after losing her vision, she helps out with her 7-month-old granddaughter, Taia.

Reid can give the child a bottle, can even change her diaper but has never seen her smile. She is unable to cook, unable to read, unable to walk by herself outside of her home.

"I try my best, but it's so hard," she says.

All of that will change for Reid and 17 other Utahns on December 2 as part of Operation Sight Day at the John A. Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah. Twice yearly, volunteer physicians, staff, nurses and technicians provide free, sight-restoring surgeries to assist low-income, uninsured people in need of care.

Moran residents and University of Utah medical students first created a charity surgery day with volunteer physicians, staff, nurses and technicians in 2012. The event is now part of local and international efforts by Moran's Global Outreach Division, and was adopted as a national model by the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery Foundation's Operation Sight network.

The Eye Institute of Utah in Salt Lake City, the St. George Eye Center, and the Tanner Clinic in Davis County will also restore vision to an additional 28 patients in November and December. Including upcoming patients, Moran has assisted a total of 176 Utahns as part of Operation Sight Day but organizers say the need for charity eye care is great.

"We have more than 100 people in need on our waiting list," said Michael Yei, director of Moran's Global Outreach Division. "We are so thankful for the generosity of our donors, our sponsors, and all of our medical personnel that make this effort possible. The impact in the community is substantial when you consider the economic and social consequences of vision loss. These patients are able to return to their jobs, to school, and to society."

Both 2017 Operation Sight Days have been generously sponsored by the Bank of American Fork. Bank President and CEO Richard Beard said the event is just one way the business works to support those in need.

"This is very meaningful for us," he said. "We couldn't be prouder to be a part of such amazing work to assist our neighbors through tough times and to get them access to health care that will truly change their lives."

Moran surgeons donating their skills are: Jeff Pettey, MD; William R. Barlow, Jr., MD; and Marissa B. Larochelle, MD. More than 40 additional Moran medical personnel and staff volunteer their time for Operation Sight Day.