Mexican grandparents, others see clearly for first time in years

Simone Del Rosario

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Mexican grandparents, others see clearly for first time in years

CREATED Oct. 13, 2013

 TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Twenty-two patients from Mexico were given the gift of sight on Saturday -- for free. 

The Nogales Lions clubs from both sides of the border brought patients to Camp Lowell Surgery Center, where skilled surgeons and volunteers performed pro bono cataract surgery. All of their time and supplies are donated, free of charge. 

Maria, one of the patients, said her vision was really blurry and that she would fall in the street all the time. She said it was really painful. 

But surgery wasn't. Cataract surgeries can last as little as 10 to 30 minutes but could be life changing. Some patients, like Maria, were rolled out of the surgical room and will be able to see out of that eye for the first time in  years. 

"It's their actual sight," Nogales Lions Club President Gabriel Gastelum said. "It's something really precious that we take for granted until we lose it."

The Nogales Lions clubs have been organizing "Operation See" for four decades. On the Nogales, Sonora, side, the club identifies those with serious economic hardships who may qualify for cataract surgery. They help gather the necessary papers to get the patients across the border for the day.

The Nogales, Ariz., club then transports those patients to Tucson, where around 50 volunteers wait to treat them. 

"You go from not being able to drive -- not being able to see your children -- to being able to see them clearly," said Carmen Felix-Tacoronte, surgeon and volunteer. "Many of them are grandparents and grandfathers; they're able to be with their grand babies and see them grow up."

In just one day, patients will remove their bandages and see clearly for the first time in years.