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In August of 2005 Dr. Stuart Kaufman and his son Jonathan, a first year medical student, volunteered for a medical mission at The Lighthouse Mission for Christ Eye Clinic in Mombassa, Kenya. Mombassa, a coastal city of Africa is home to a population of 2 million people of which there are only 4 ophthalmologists! In Hillsborough County there are over 100 ophthalmologists.
At the Lighthouse Dr. Kaufman served as a professor, a surgeon, and a clinician. Though there were an abundant amount of patients who desperately needed surgery, Dr. Kaufman thought he could best serve the people of Mombassa as a whole by teaching the ophthalmologists the latest advances in cataract surgery. This included the latest surgical technique of “Insta-Sight” cataract surgery which is the removal of a cataract without needles, patches, or stitches that Dr. Kaufman helped develop in 1992. He also introduced a new technique to dilate the eye using a special mixture of medications as oppose to using multiple drops prior to surgery. Dr. Kaufman also taught argon laser trabeculoplasty to eliminate the need for glaucoma drops in selected patients.
Though Dr. Kaufman’s primary role was professor, he was able to examine a multitude of patients and perform many surgical procedures. But one obstacle that was not easily overcome was the language barrier. The majority of patients in Kenya spoke either Swahili or tribal languages. Like the childhood game of telephone, Dr. Kaufman once had to use 2 separate interpreters to communicate to a patient. The patient spoke a tribal language from Somolia which had to be translated into Swahili. Then another interpreter translated Swahili into English.
Jonathan Kaufman, two technicians, a driver, and Dr. Kaufman conducted a couple remote missions into tribal rural areas. With only an eye chart, a flash light, and a primitive Schiotz tonometer (used to measure eye pressure), the team was able to diagnose patients with cataracts, glaucoma, and retinoblastoma. Due to the lack of access to medications, Dr. Kaufman performed glaucoma surgery on patients with glaucoma. Unfortunately the 3 year old girl who was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma (a form of eye cancer) had to have her eye removed.
But the most important message Dr. Kaufman received from this mission, is how fortunate he is to live in such a great country. After seeing such devastating poverty and such lack of medical care, Dr. Kaufman hopes to continue to bring good will to those who need it the most.