Mabel's Free Clinic

Two cultures united with the same objective ~ "Health and Education"

Optometric Surgery

The optical surgeries occurred on October 27,28, &29. Dr Calles, the ophthalmologist and surgeon, performed 7 cataract and 19 ptyrergium surgeries on the first 2 days and follow up exams on the 29th. Many thanks go the the clinic staff – Martha, Sam, Anna, Betsy, and Rudy who all worked extra hours to pull this off. Also to Norma Vermeulen for coordinating the project and Dra Eva for providing the required medications. Thanks also to Dianna Olson and her organization ‘Life on the Border’ for donating money for the lion share of the expenses.


Ordinary folks doing God’s Work, South of the Border

Pterygium (Pronounced Terry Gee Um) is a growth on the surface of the eye, most often on the nose side, that is caused by over exposure to the sun (UV) and dust. Most common among field workers, seamen and surfers around the world, it is often called “Surfers eye”.

The lesion can grow, most often from the nose side towards the Cornea, at a rate of one 1/16 of an inch per month. If it is not detected or remains un- treated, and exposure continues, in time the Cornea will be attacked resulting in blurred vision, then focus issues and finally loss of sight in the effected eye. At that point, the only solution is a Corneal Transplant. A Cornea Transplant can be quite expensive. Without insurance coverage it might cost about $12-14,000 which includes surgical center, surgeon and tissue costs.

Early detection may require an inexpensive, minor, 30 minute, out-patient surgery with 99+% success rate. Mabel’s clinic operates strictly on donations; all medical services are performed by fully qualified but uncompensated career medical volunteers.

Volunteer Surgeon saving her sight Photo by Bob Drasner


A pterygium is a non-cancerous growth that starts in the clear, thin tissue (conjunctiva) of the eye. This growth covers the white part of the eye (sclera) and extends onto the cornea. It is often slightly raised and contains visible blood vessels. The problem may occur on one or both eyes.


The exact cause is unknown. It is more common in people who have a lot of exposure to sunlight and wind, such as people who work outdoors.

Risk factors are exposure to sunny, dusty, sandy, or windblown areas. Farmers, fishermen, and people living near the equator are often affected. Pterygium is more common among farm workers, seaman and surfers who may not protect their eyes from UV (Proper sunglasses) and / or dust. It is rare in children.


The main symptom of a pterygium is a painless area of raised white tissue that has blood vessels on the inner or outer edge of the cornea. Sometimes the pterygium has no symptoms. However, it may become inflamed and cause burning, irritation, or a feeling like there's something foreign in the eye. Vision may be affected if the growth extends far enough onto the cornea.

Exams and Tests

A physical examination of the eyes and eyelids confirms the diagnosis. Special tests are usually not needed.


Treatment is usually not needed. Using artificial tears to keep the eyes moist may help prevent a pterygium from becoming inflamed. Mild steroid eye drop can be used to calm inflammation if it occurs. Surgery can be used to remove the growth for cosmetic reasons or if it blocks vision.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Most pterygia cause no problems and do not need treatment. If a pterygium affects the cornea, removing it can have good results.

Possible Complications

Ongoing inflammation can cause a pterygium to grow farther onto the cornea. A pterygium can return after it is removed.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

People with pterygium should be seen by an ophthalmologist each year, so that the condition can be treated before it affects vision.

Call for an appointment with your ophthalmologist if you have had a pterygium in the past and your symptoms return.


Taking steps to protect the eyes from ultraviolet light such as wearing sunglasses and a hat with a brim may help prevent this condition.

August 28, 2013 On this day ... at Mabelís Clinic ...

On this day… We were all blessed in many ways; let us count a few of our many gifts …our eyes & hearts were opened, our hands were steadied, we were afforded this opportunity … and with God given abilities we came together … On this day, 4 eyes were saved … tomorrow … 4 eyes will see a baby smile, a flower bloom and the word read in gratitude . and with these gifts we will go on trying to do our best .