Giving back: McGregor woman helps provide eye surgeries to Honduran children

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McGregor resident Charlene Sauer (left), a nurse practitioner, will return to Siguatepeque, Honduras, this fall, through the organization Sharing Resources Worldwide, to help provide eye surgery to kids 18 years old and younger. She went for the first time last fall, and is pictured with Dick Beinborn, a certified registered nurse anesthetist, and registered nurse Kari Sass. (Submitted photo)

The team is based at the John Eaves Clinic at La Providencia, an orphanage, which is equipped with two air conditioned operating suites. There, they perform corrective surgery on children suffering from strabismus, or crossed eyes. (Submitted photo)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

This fall, McGregor resident Charlene Sauer will again return to Siguatepeque, Honduras, through the organization Sharing Resources Worldwide, to help provide eye surgery to kids 18 years old and younger. A nurse practitioner, Sauer was one of 14 medical professionals from Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Tennessee, California and Iowa hand-chosen to take part last year. 

Founded in 2002 by nurses Mary Dowling and Lisa Fernandez, Sharing Resources Worldwide endeavors to improve the quality of life of disadvantaged populations around the world through the delivery of excellent health care. The goal last fall (and again this October) in Honduras was to aid children suffering from strabismus, or crossed eyes.

Fixing the condition is important in Honduras, Sauer explained, because those with crossed eyes are sometimes ostracized in their communities and often not allowed to attend school. 

However, no medical professionals in the country can perform the corrective surgery. That’s why mission groups are key.

“If we don’t go, they don’t have other options,” Sauer said.

Sauer said strabismus is not a bigger problem in Honduras than elsewhere in the world.

“The same amount of people have crossed eyes here, but there’s infrastructure here to help people,” she said. “[In the United States}, we generally take care of it by age one, so you don’t see it.”

The main drawback of correcting the issue later in childhood is that the likelihood of restoring vision is lessened, Sauer mentioned.

“But we can make it look normal,” she said.

The stay in Honduras lasts one week; it takes a whole day to reach Siguatepeque. There, the team is based at the John Eaves Clinic at La Providencia, an orphanage, which is equipped with two air conditioned operating suites.

Sauer said surgeries are not performed on the orphans, as they have already been taken care of, but rather on children from the countryside who travel to them. Some came from as little as 30 minutes away, while others traveled as much as eight hours.

“It was $3 to $5 to travel,” Sauer noted. “That’s a lot of money for them.”

On the first day, the team screened 93 children, selecting who would be appropriate for surgery, Sauer said. Thirty-nine surgeries were then scheduled over five days.

In the U.S., surgery would normally cost $30,000 for both eyes, Sauer said, but patients receive help free of charge. They only have to pay to travel.

Sauer recalled a teenage boy who picked coffee beans, using his own money to make the trip.

“He asked when he could go back to work,” she said.

Another girl, who had received the opportunity to go to school, was thrilled the corrective surgery would allow her to graduate from high school without crossed eyes.

“Those kids are so grateful,” Sauer said of what touches her the most about the experience.

Sauer said making trips like this has been something she’s always wanted to do.

“I always said, when my children are off to college, I want to fly out of the country and take care of little kids,” she said. 

She hopes her experience shows others that people from small towns can make a difference around the world.

“You need to give back in your lifetime, and give more than you take,” she shared.

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