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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Two men from Puerto Rico arrived in Pittsburgh on Sunday to undergo emergency eye surgery, courtesy of a local ophthalmology firm.
Beyond the shortage of food and electricity caused by Hurricanes Maria and Irma, there is now a backlog of medical care.
Associates in Ophthalmology in Pittsburgh recognized the tremendous need and offered to help. Two men who qualified for urgent eye surgery flew into Pittsburgh on Sunday and will undergo an operation Wednesday.
“They have diabetic vitreous hemorrhages and retinal detachments, which is a potentially blinding situation if it goes untreated,” Dr. Miguel Busquets, with Associates in Ophthalmology, said.
Angel Romero and Bernardo Amaro both signed up for eye surgery before Hurricane Irma, but due to the damage to medical facilities, they would have to wait for months.
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“This is a blessing. It is a blessing,” said Gloria Santiago, a translator for both men.
She says Romero is practically blind.
“Not having good eyesight, not having any eyesight right now,” she said. “Once it gets dark, he can’t see anything at all.”
But now, his life is about to change.
“In order to help him and give him a quality of life, it’s everything,” Santiago said.
Amaro has severe bleeding in his eyes.
“If he doesn’t get his surgery, he could end up losing his entire eyesight,” Santiago said.
In addition to eyesight problems, both men have been coping with the hardships created by the hurricanes. Romero says a tree fell on his house, while Amaro says he only received 12 bottles of water for the first 14 days after the hurricane. But now, things are looking up.
“[Amaro] thanks God for the instruments to get this done,” Santiago said.
Just as their quality of life will improve, they believe improvements are also on the way for Puerto Rico.
The two men had their exams Monday morning. Santiago said they felt “very, very anxious about it and excited. and they really feel blessed.” The two men say they’ve never been to Pittsburgh before, and other than the “extreme cold,” they are loving their experience so far.
Busquets plans to flan more people from Puerto Rico to Pittsburgh for eye surgery in the coming months.