In the last several years, we have battled many new healthcare obstacles together.
Many of you know that my husband and I made several trips to Brazil to teach and establish a retinal operating room. On my last trip, one of my Brazilian colleagues taught me the’ legend of the hummingbird’ that has served as inspiration.
The forest is on fire and all the animals are fleeing to safety. The only exception is the hummingbird who is flying toward the fire with a drop of water in her beak. The eagle perched higher up thinks ‘silly little bird’ as he looks down and sees her. “Don’t you realize that you’ll never put the fire out all by yourself?” he asks.
“You’re right,” says the hummingbird. “I can’t do it by myself. But I’m doing my part.”
Two hundred and eighty million people in the world face vision loss, 80% of which is preventable. On my last trip to the Amazon, I was asked to fly to a remote village where people were ”losing vision”. ‘Could this be a new disease or new surgical problem?’ I wondered. Just before I departed, a grateful patient brought me packages of reading glasses. Never wasteful, I packed them for the trip. In this remote Amazon village, the people began showing me their feet. They suddenly couldn’t see to remove the thorns from their feet, weave baskets, or spear fish.
That trip began with the persistence of one lady who wrote and had others call on behalf of a remote tribe losing vision. As I examined each one of them, I realized that she had taught them basic health over 20 years, improving their life expectancy. They didn’t have an ‘eye disease’ per se; they simply needed reading glasses. This tribe believed they were losing vision until the readers gifted to me were dispersed to immediate smiles. In the 100% humidity of this tiny hut, my host opened her prized possession, a solar mini fridge run by a Delphi battery, and handed me a can of ice cold Coke. The epiphany I had at that moment was that Coke was accessible in every part of the world, but medical care or eye care access was not.
A year later, my own grandmother in Jackson, Michigan had a car accident because of advanced glaucoma. Once we got her to the University of Michigan Kellogg Glaucoma clinic, she asked me why her doctor had not referred her sooner. My journey has shown me that all people should have access to eye care whether their need is basic or specialized.
As we grow, we recognize that we cannot take things to the grave and our greatest success is helping others. As such, we have chosen to donate our practice to the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center to bring other world-class specialists to you under one roof. I will remain here in the Grand Blanc office full time seeing patients and working to improve eye care access locally and globally.
Please join me in welcoming the additional retinal and other ophthalmic subspecialties in our new venture to extinguish the fire of vision loss. When you see me flying by at 800 mph, think of the hummingbird legend.