Something keeps pulling Dr. Richard Gieser and Dr. John Garrett back.
Dr. Gieser has worked in 19 countries, sometimes visiting multiple continents in the same year, and is a former recipient of the American Academy of Ophthalmology Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award. From Sudan and Egypt to Mongolia and China, he serves those in need wherever he can.
Dr. Garrett has gone on mission trips in countries spread across the globe, but a small clinic next to a dirt road in El Progreso, Honduras, has captivated his attention since the late 1990s.
For decades, Dr. Garrett and Dr. Gieser have traveled to countries where there is limited access to eye tissue. Both receive corneas for their mission trips through the Eversight Gift of Sight program, which eliminates costs associated with corneal transplantation.
“There’s a great need,” said Dr. Gieser, a retired retinal specialist from Wheaton Eye Clinic in Wheaton, Illinois. “The transplants are performed on people who couldn’t afford them otherwise, and Eversight is always gracious about supplying the tissue and having it ready the morning I leave.”
Dr. Gieser remembers one woman in Egypt who had been blind for 12 years. She was told a cornea would be available if she could make it to the clinic, so she took a train for 16 hours and made it in time to undergo cataract surgery and a cornea transplant.
Similar stories compel Dr. Garrett to return to Honduras year after year. Last March, he carried a plastic foam container with 19 corneas to El Progreso, a city nestled in the mountains of Central America.
“My most memorable patient was a child blind in both eyes. Her corneas were so scarred she could barely find a doorway or chair,” said Dr. Garrett, who practices at Garrett Eye in northern Michigan. “Now she can see the eye chart—and the world. She’s grown up so fast. She came to see me on her birthday and gave me a kiss.”
No matter where Dr. Garrett or Dr. Gieser visit, neither forgets that the patients they are able to help is possible thanks to donors, their families, and support from Eversight charitable programs.
“I couldn’t have done it without them. It’s an unbelievable gift that we are able to give these people,” Dr. Garrett said. “And I never take for granted the donation of time and talent that Eversight employees contribute to the success of these missions.”