By Adama Dyoniziak, Executive Director, Champions for Health
“I saw white hairs in my vision,” trembled Andres. His diabetes complication impacted his ability to drive comfortably or to manage daily activities. Monthly laser treatments and eye injections to help with the cloudiness were a financial struggle for his family. Eventually, the treatments became ineffective altogether: “the hairs came back, and they expanded, like smoke or a cloud in my eye and I was unable to see.” The doctor quoted $15,000 for cataract surgery or he risked losing his eyesight. This was a financial impossibility.
“At that time, I would not cry or be emotional,” said Andres. “I had a normal life, I was involved in my church, on Saturdays I would go to the hospital and visit the sick. I was the personal chauffeur for my family. I would work in the garden, I would work on odd jobs.”
Andres’ vision was almost completely gone for about 6 months as the family waited for a miracle. “As the leader of the family, as a grandfather to my grandchildren, I had to be the brave one in front of all of them,” remembers Andres. When his vision was very bad, Andres recalls “my family would lead me places, my wife would have to help me get to the restroom.”
Project Access connected Andres with Dr. Michael Couris. “He came in with trepidation, and was worried about his sight loss,” recalls Dr. Couris, an ophthalmologist with Vision Care & Correction of San Diego, and Project Access volunteer since 2010. Andres says, “Everyone in the office made me feel so welcome! Thank you for your help, for your friendliness and for the hope you gave me to be able to see. I can say right now that this is a miracle.”
When asked how he is doing now Andres says, “I can see all of you, I can see my grandkids, I can see colors, I can see flowers, I can see the sun the stars – it is beautiful to be able to see again.”
Practicing for 20 years, Dr. Couris shares, “My patients are my family and friends. I love coming to work in the morning and making people smile every day because they can see again.” Dr. Couris adds, “As a physician, it is a team effort to help society by doing my part to make it a better world for everyone.”
The family emphasized that Evelyn Penaloza, Project Access Care Manager, has always been so supportive, and quick to follow-up on any need. “We may not have met her in person, but God has met her.” Evelyn was happy to accept a plant as a gift of appreciation from Andres. “It is like I was a plant that had no water… now I feel like I am going to bear fruit,” humbly adds Andres.
Since 2008, Project Access has facilitated $21 million in care for 6,500+ uninsured patients just like Andres by providing free consultations and surgeries – all thanks to the dedication, time and talent of their volunteer physicians. For every $1 spent on program expenses, they provide $10 in donated services – a return on investment of 1000%!