Board Blog

This blog is written by various COS board members for the members of the society.  You must have an active membership to access the entire article.

eriEri was an ophthalmology resident who identified herself as a Christian in a Muslim country in eastern Europe.  She had reached out to the COS several times over the last couple of years expressing a true spiritual calling.  I had engaged her via email to learn more about her interest in our society and to explore how we might support her.  To my surprise, this spring I had an unexpected opportunity to meet her when my daughter decided to go to her country to be a student teacher and I joined her. 

Recognizing that being a resident in ophthalmology doesn’t necessarily mean becoming a competent eye surgeon, I was eager to learn about her system and her experience.  Eri was in her final year of 4 years at the Mother Teresa hospital, the only training center in the capital city.  She was eager to meet me and my daughter and I anticipated discussions about her training, her future, and potentially how we could partner in increasing her ministry within the field of ophthalmology.

It became quickly evident that she had been selected to never do eye surgery.  Her knowledge of their current operating room environment was roughly equivalent to an outsider knowing about the clandestine practices of an inner secret club.  Her attitude was one of rejection and disappointment, and it became obvious that she had spent several years in depression when she realized she was given a very limited outside track.  Her initial dreams had been to be a “real doctor” who would save lives but, in her words, she was banished to an easy life of a doctor taking care of a limited scope of diseases involving “just a small organ.”

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ComfortingPatientSo at home, when we do eye surgery, I would guess that a lot of us take for granted the trust that it takes for a patient to lay on the table and let us operate on their eyes. I think that level of trust is even more exaggerated when we go into the overseas mission field where there are huge cultural and communication barriers. I became very aware of this when my family was on the other side of this need for medical care in a foreign country where we didn’t speak the language and things were generally just foreign to us.

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tuititionpaid wangIn college, my roommate kept an old test pinned to the wall beside his bed. Now you’d think this test would be somewhat of a trophy, perhaps a tough exam he’d aced along the way, and here was sure validation that he could rise up to any academic challenge. We were pre-med students, after all. The competition for top grades was stiff, and we faced the constant reality that most of our class would not make it through to medical school.

So it took a certain amount of bravado to display an exam with a big red “F” on the front page.

But it was a declaration to all of us, including himself, that he was better than that grade. He would do whatever it took to raise his GPA. And to his credit, after years of rigorous work, he got that acceptance letter to a prestigious med school.

There’s an even tougher place to get into, and the acceptance rate has been likened to “a camel passing through the eye of a needle.” An impossible task for mere mortals.

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Isaiah 26:3 “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.  Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”

During the holidays we often remember those that we love who are no longer with us, and this year I lost one of the most important mentors in my life, Dr. Glen Brindley.  He taught me about Ophthalmology.  He taught me about our Lord.   He modeled for me how a man of God should live and behave in his home and work.  As I was reading in Isaiah today I came across the verse above and it brought to my mind so many things about my mentor. Dr. Brindley’s mind was stayed on the Lord and that flowed into everything that he did.  It even flowed into his way of speaking and because of that, I have a few of his phrases that I’d like to share.

spillingoverDuring our bible study on marriage with the Brindleys, my wife and I were able to learn from the hard-won wisdom the Brindleys had gathered over their long marriage.  After a long day at work or a rough day in the operating room I admit that I am often guilty of carrying that stress home and letting it affect how I treat my family.  Instead of coming home with joy to see my children and wife, I come home tired, slightly grumpy, and not ready to show the love of Christ to those that I love most in this world.  The Brindleys called this “spilling over.” 

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blindBlind.  Alone.  Scared.  Depressed.  Helpless.  Hopeless.  Carlos lost his mother at age 5.  He lost his vision in one eye at 12 forcing him to drop out of school.  At 13 Carlos lost his father.  At 14 he went blind in his other eye and became confined to his home in a world of darkness in a tiny Haitian hut, relying on his neighbors to bring him food.  Understandably, Carlos sunk into depression and helplessness.  In a country where 90% of the population practices at least some form of Voodoo, many looked at Carlos and wondered what he or his family did to bring on such a curse. 

One day Carlos heard about the eye team from a neighbor.  He didn’t have much hope that his vision could be restored but he had nothing to lose.  As Carlos made his way to the busy clinic led by two neighbors he received the devastating news that the surgery schedule for the trip was full. He’d have to wait four months until the next trip to have surgery.  When he finally reached the front of the line, the history taker asked him if he knew about Jesus.  He said he had heard of Jesus but didn’t believe in Him since God took his parents and his vision.  What a tough life.  Who could blame him?

Carlos’s story made its way to the OR where we were asked if we might add just one more case.  Of course.  How could we not?  Carlos stumbled through the camp to the operating area.  Multiple people prayed with him in the pre-op area.  I noticed as he was helped onto the table that he put his hands together and looked up as if to say “Jesus if you’re real, help me see!”  I don’t think I have ever prayed so hard for a patient before a case.  As I stared at the white cataract through the microscope I noticed his zonular support system was compromised.  Although the case wasn’t smooth, the cataract came out and a new lens ended up in the eye.  Disappointingly, I did not see a red reflex after removing the cataract.  Was there a tumor or a retinal detachment back there?  We’d have to wait a day when the patch would be removed to find out.

 carlos team

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