Eric Purdy, M.D., a board-certified ophthalmologist living in Bluffton, IN, gave a very interesting talk to the Arcola, IN Lions Club on Tuesday evening. “Dr. Purdy specializes in oculoplastic surgery, eye muscle surgery, and diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases. Oculoplastic surgery includes the surgical treatment of droopy eyelids, eyelid deformities and tumors, eyelid injuries, diseases and tumors of the orbit (eye socket area), and tear duct problems.”
Dr. Purdy showed a long list of countries he has visited in the past 27 years, mostly at his own expense, to perform corrective surgeries and to teach local surgeons. Resident ophthalmologists, nurses, and other medical personnel accompany Dr. Purdy’s team. Lions Clubs in these countries help with housing, eyeglasses exams and fittings, transportation, etc. He often conducts over 200 surgeries in a 2-3 week time period. He has been to Honduras, Guatemala, Ecuador, El Salvador, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Kenya, Cuba, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Cambodia. He visited several of these countries multiple times and intends to return to many of them in the future.
He visited Sumatra soon after the 2004 tsunami killed 280,000 people. He also visited Haiti right after their devastating 2010 earthquake killed approximately 250,000 people. He cannot return to Haiti, however, as the country is unsafe to travel to. He also cannot return to Myanmar (Burma) since the government was overthrown by a military coup in 2021.
“The best kind of mission work involves creating connections that build with each visit. The goal is to develop long-term and mutually beneficial relationships that improve the existing situation in an underserved location and to facilitate these changes in a sustainable way,” said the medical director of an eye institute. Alcon, a global eye-care corporation, has donated $200,000 worth of supplies several times to support Dr. Purdy’s overseas work. “Medical mission teams work side-by-side with local eye care professionals to provide hands-on training, while also helping to increase patient awareness about the need for proper eye care,” says Alcon.
On his recent trip to Honduras, Dr. Purdy, Rolando Yuga of the Honduras Lions Club, and Jim Brockmann of Changing Footprints loaded a container at a Bluffton warehouse. Included in the shipment were 8 donated surgical microscopes, 5 cataract phacoemulsification machines, an Alcon Accurus posterior vitrectomy unit, an autoclave, a YAG laser, 5 OR patient carts, several storage cabinets, 40 boxes of Alcon eye surgery mission supplies for Dr. Purdy’s February mission, donated orthopedic surgery instruments, 4 complete dental office suites, and much more.
The microscopes and surgical chairs were donated by hospitals updating their equipment. The dental equipment was donated by dentists who retired and dissolved their practices. There were 30, 000 eyeglasses for the El Salvador Lions Club boxed and organized by the Wanatah, IN Lions Club and the Arcola Lions Club. There were also 1,680 pairs of used shoes gathered by Jim Brockmann and his Changing Footprints group.
Dr. Purdy used his many slides to show before and after pictures of some of the thousands of eye patients he has helped. He described how he often encounters unusual deformations around the eye socket in both young children and adults, and he often must get creative to solve those problems, such as using a drill from his basement for a procedure. He told many funny stories. Once he found a vendor at an eye convention that sold generic prosthetic eyeballs for $2 each (a “good” prosthetic eye can run $3,000). He bought a whole bag of them in various sizes. Another time a boy was afraid to tell his mother what he had done to hurt his eye. Dr. Purdy removed several large pieces of wood from around the boy’s swollen eye. Only then would the boy tell his mother he had fallen on a stick.
Helen Keller said this at the Lions Club International convention in 1925: “The opportunity I bring to you, Lions, is this… Will you not help me hasten the day when there shall be no preventable blindness; no little deaf, blind child untaught; no blind man or woman unaided? I appeal to you, Lions, you who have your sight, your hearing, you who are strong and brave and kind. Will you not constitute yourselves Knights of the Blind in this crusade against darkness?” Dr. Purdy has been living these words by his life-long quest to improve the sight of the disadvantaged.
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