“Me disculpe! Espera alli por favor!”
The entrance at the Optometrist’s office was crowded with forlorn
faces, waiting to be examined. The prospective patients were jockeying
for position but I kept asking them to wait in a straight line along
the wall. I was trying to create order since entering and leaving the
room was difficult.
My feet ached. Oddly, I did not feel this badly when I completed a
marathon last year.
Until a few days ago, I was a medical mission virgin. While foreign
travel was not new, I was apprehensive about my role in this trip. I
was the only non-healthcare professional of the group. I did not want
to be a liability and hear everyone ask “Who brought this idiot?”
I was determined to be helpful.
My job as a photographer was well defined. I would be a fly on the
wall and surreptitiously document the activities amongst the different
disciplines: Medical, Pediatrics, Pharmacy, Dental, and Optometry. On
the first day, I lurked around the different clinics and snapped away.
It was exciting to witness patient interactions and even the
horrifying dental extractions. I was always busy capturing candid
moments, but when the Optometrist arrived, I had more work to do.
Marleny and I greeted each other, and we were ready to get started.
The Optometrist spoke little English. My Spanish language abilities
were proficient decades ago in high school. I suspected this would be
a great plot for a made for television movie, but we were able to
communicate quickly. We organized the prescription glasses, bifocals
and sunglasses in order of lens specifications. Unfortunately we did
not have enough space on the table for all of the inventory, so there
were a few unsorted bags lying around.
Marleny was indefatigable. She saw consecutive patients without
breaks, with exception to lunch, yet demonstrated empathy for every
patient and smiled often. After each consultation I searched for the
closest prescription to offer the patient. She was vigilant with the
glasses we handed out. While these products were donated, she
maintained a high standard. If we did not find a suitable fit, then we
apologized and sent the patient away empty handed. I respected that
but my job was far from glamorous. I immediately realized what early
stage librarians experienced before the advent of the catalog. Alas, I
dared not to complain since my other colleagues were working
tirelessly as well.
Over two days Optometry saw 100 patients. While I was proud of what
was accomplished today, I hope that we can help many more tomorrow.