John Jones leads successful eye care mission

New Year’s Day 2017 found 11 Linkenheimer staff and partners on their way to Nicaragua for the firm’s third eye care mission into the remote villages of the Rio San Juan region. Travelers included Matt Melchiori, Anne Glanville, Judy Deniz, Kerri Berry, Andy Vedder, Nina Shaposhnikov, Rudy Malmanis, Kari Bruner, Carli Ortiz, Mike Musson and John Jones.

The morning of January 2nd we boarded the 12 seat Cessna Caravan for San Carlos and our beloved dirt runway. Lunch and a two hour boat ride found us at the Sabalos Lodge which served as our home base. Mosquito repellent in hand, along with instructions on tucking in the mosquito netting under your mattress (while you are on the mattress) got us prepared for the next five nights.

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Days 2 and 3 found us traveling to and from and working in the village of Las Maravillas. This is a very remote village and difficult to get to from Sabalos (or anywhere for that matter) and rarely receives medical services. The region had 30 days of straight rain prior to our arrival, so the roads were nothing but mud and slop with our 4WD convoy frequently stopping to assess the driving strategies and get fellow vehicles unstuck. After two hours of driving we made it to Las Maravillas for the eye care clinic. Our first day at Las Maravillas had us seeing only 250 patients. Only, but it was obvious to us that those 250 people greatly benefited from the quality vision that we were able to provide them. Turns out, due to the heavy rains, a lot of the locals didn’t think we were going to make it to the village. Day 3 was a different story. We saw 428 patients, which turned out to be an all time high patient count for the Rio San Juan region.

Day 4 was in another remote village, called Buena Vista. Only 1 ½ hours of driving thru the mud each way to this locale. Another busy and rewarding day for the Linkenheimer team seeing 373 patients. Of this count, few were children and many of the adults had significant eye and vision issues. As one team member put it “we earned every patient seen in Buena Vista”.

As with all of the eye care missions, team members functioned in each stage of the clinic. Andy and Judy were John’s primary translators; Carli, Matt and Mike worked the autorefractor; Nina, Rudy, Kari, Anne were full time fitters. Kerri did fitting the first couple of days and then was John’s assistant in Buena Vista learning how to determine the best prescriptions for the patients. We also had the assistance of Rafael and Ninoska from the Lodge and San Juan Rio Relief, and Howard and Janelle Freshman from southern California who have “adopted” the region and were in Sabalos. It was an awesome team.

Day 5 was special too because we were able to participate in the ground breaking ceremony for the Sabalos Surgery Center. The project is primarily sponsored by the Santa Rosa Sunrise Rotary Club but had been stuck in Nicaraguan red tape. Finally last fall the project emerged (after four plus years)  and became official on Friday January 6, 2017 with the transfer of building rights over to San Juan Rio Relief. This will be huge for the 30,000 people of the region who have no advanced diagnostics (x-ray, ultra sound, etc) and no surgical capacity.

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