NEWS | March 10, 2010

U.S. military helps make medical miracles happen in Honduras

By 1st Lt. Jennifer Richard Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

Like a lot of men in Honduras, Lorenzo Amador enjoys the use of his eyesight to farm and make a living off of the land. Unlike other men, however, Amador spent the last three years legally blind but regained his sight again March 9.

Amador's blindness, caused by cataracts in both eyes, was healed by surgeries performed during a combined U.S/Honduran humanitarian civic assistance eye surgical campaign at the Hospital Del Sur in Choluteca, Honduras, Feb. 22-March 13.

The medical clinic is conducted by a team of Honduran ophthalmology surgeons, U.S. military ophthalmologists and support staff. Since the clinic began Feb. 22, they have seen approximately 900 patients and performed about 180 surgeries to repair people's sight.

"The focus of this mission is helping people with eye conditions such as cataracts. This also gives us the opportunity to work together with Honduran doctors and learn from each-other," said Army Dr. (Lt. Col.) John Thordsen, mission commander, based out of Madigan Army Medical Center, Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Wash.

Because of the care provided by the combined medical team, hundreds of Hondurans are now able to use their sight to participate in everyday things like playing soccer, studying, farming and more.

"I am very, very happy," said Lorenzo Amador, an 87-year-old resident of Choluteca. "I wanted my eyesight back to be able to go home and work my land."

The U.S. military is supporting the eye surgical campaign with a 16-person medical team of Army ophthalmologists and support staff from Madigan Army Medical Center, in addition to five medical and security forces personnel from Joint Task Force-Bravo, Soto Cano AB, Honduras.

"It is an honor and a privilege for our people to be able to help," said Army Col. Gregory Reilly, JTF-Bravo commander. "The medical miracles that happen here change people's lives. We know how important it is to the people of Choluteca, and we are thankful for the opportunity to work together with the Honduran medical personnel here."

The doctors and staff of Hospital Del Sur appreciate the U.S. military's teamwork and assistance in performing the specialized eye surgeries.

"I want to say thank you to the U.S. military personnel for being here," said Doctor Jose Carillo, hospital director. "Thank you for all of the support and aid you have provided through the years."

The humanitarian civic assistance eye surgical campaign is a recurring event that has taken place in Choluteca every year since 2001. The Honduran and American personnel both look forward to continuing this event in years to come.

"Our goal is to continue to build our relationships here," said Colonel Reilly. "What we are doing here in Choluteca is just part of a bigger partnership--the partnership that we have with Honduras."

JTF-Bravo, a U.S. Southern Command forward-deployable task force, conducts humanitarian assistance and disaster relief throughout Central America. Joint Task Force-Bravo's Medical Element is scheduled to conduct its next medical clinic in Costa Rica, March 23 and 24.