Eye surgeon treks to Bolivia to help remote villagers

Pierter Gouws
Pierter Gouws

A HOSPITAL consultant spent his holiday treating and helping impoverished residents in Bolivia suffering from eye diseases.

Pieter Gouws, one of the Conquest’s consultant ophthalmologists, worked with the Andean Medical Mission (AMM) in the Amazon.

This new charity was set up by David Goldsmith with advice from various ophthalmologists including Mr Gouws. The aim is to provide treatment for blinding eye conditions and to train local ophthalmologists to improve the eye care offered throughout the country.

Mr Gouws was in Bolivia from June 1 to June 18. His work was carried out in the remote province of Itenez in the Beni district in the north-east corner, which borders Brazil.

The remoteness meant a 30-hour plus travel time to Bolivia and internal transport via a small Cesna plane.

Mr Gouws used his annual leave and funded all his own expenses, apart from a fundraising effort by two diabetic retinal screeners, Wendy Mills and Tony Hale.

Over the four weeks they attended more than 500 patients and carried out surgeries on 120 people returning sight or preventing blindness in many cases.

They managed to carry out some training in eye care for accidents and emergencies, as well as leaving them a supply of medicines for future use.

The last day was spent in the city of Santa Cruz where Mr Gouws did a teaching session with the local ophthalmologists on the importance of monitoring and treating diabetic retinopathy.

Mr Gouws said: “This was a fantastic opportunity to improve eye healthcare for a highly impoverished community. We plan to continue this work and hope to establish an ongoing educational programme for the local ophthalmologists in Bolivia.

“My sincere thanks for all the good wishes that accompanied me and a special thank you to Tony and Wendy whose fundraising helped to fund my costs.

“I hope I have raised people’s interest and that they might be able to help us with some of the funds for the equipment we need. Even a small donation will enable the mission to help these families and to save sight where we can.”

If anyone would like to donate email Mr Gouws at Pieter@andeanmedicalmission.co.uk.

For more information about the charity he worked with log onto www.andeanmedicalmission.co.uk.