Ophthalmologist Dr. Carey Rowan brings the gift of sight with him when he travels.
Rowan completed his seventh medical mission on behalf of Medical Ministries International earlier this year. He journeyed with a team to Riohacha, Colombia, for two weeks to aid impoverished residents.
Rowan and his associates performed 350 eye surgeries, distributed 4,000 pairs of eyeglasses (many collected through the Lions Club), saw 500 patients a day, and enabled many people to see for the first time.
And when all was said and done, he had only one goal in mind: Go back as quickly as possible and do it all again.
"I just feel like it's not enough," said Rowan. "I feel blessed to do something, to help somebody. Vision affects life."
For this trip, Rowan made this mission a family affair; bringing along his sons Riley, 18, and Hudson, 16.
Riley ran an automated refractor machine that read patients' eye shapes to help prepare their prescriptions and Hudson performed front-line vision checks on incoming patients. They also watched their dad and his 50-person team, including Rowan Eye Center front office worker Sabrina Dono, bring the gift of sight to countless people.
"One lady was 100 percent blind and hadn't seen in 10 years," said Rowan, who performed cataract removal and other procedures during his missions in Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and other places. "She walked for 10 days to get to our clinic and undergo surgery. You should have seen her smile when we took the patch off."
"I helped one woman see her grandchild for the first time," said Dono. "And I knew that by removing her cataracts, we can help her help her family."
Dono also recalled aiding a young woman who had been cross-eyed all of her life.
"I just loved seeing patients look around and see everything for the first time," she said. "I love every opportunity to help people less fortunate."
Riley Rowan agreed.
"It was so cool to help," he said. "It made me want to do it again."
Hudson, for his part, said he hoped someday to become an ophthalmologist.
"It was fun to go down and help people with my dad," he said. "Also, I learned so many life skills, working side by side with doctors."
Carey Rowan encourages community members to participate in Medical Ministries International (www.mmi.org). He said he intends to undertake another vision-centered mission next year.
"Everyone can do something," he said. "Don't think it's too small. Everyone is needed."