News Story

Mormon Doctors Give the Gift of Sight

Blendina Muca spent the early years of her life struggling with a medical condition known as strabismus, or crossed eyes. After many years of unsuccessful treatment in her native Albania, Muca found help from an American physician who visited her homeland on a humanitarian excursion.

“Since I was little I had crossed eyes,” Muca reported. “My father sent me for a visit to the doctor which gives me some drops and glasses, but in fact, they didn’t correct my eyes and they became worse, but I always walked with hope they would be better.”

Despite her visual limitations, the young Albanian was able through her diligence to become a professional tailor, a career in which she excelled.

When Muca’s sister joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, another door opened for the visually impaired young woman. Church humanitarian service missionaries, present at her sister’s baptism into the Church, invited Muca to visit an LDS-sponsored clinic staffed with member ophthalmologists from the United States.

Dr. Rick Olson, a pediatric ophthalmologist on staff at the University of Iowa, performed the surgery on Muca’s eyes. Prior to the surgery, the young patient, her sister and friends united in prayer with Dr. Olson.

“The doctor asked God to make his hands as gold to fix my eyes,” Muca reported, “and he did. I knew God had made a miracle.”

The gift of sight, of actually correcting visual impairments or providing equipment or medical office management support, comes to developing countries under the auspices of Humanitarian Services of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Dr. George Pingree, a retired Salt Lake City ophthalmologist, chairs the worldwide vision initiative and represents more than 200 physicians who voluntarily participate in the programs.

“Over 40 million people in the world are blind,” Pingree explained, “many with cataracts, glaucoma or other visual problems that can be corrected.”

Church leaders and humanitarian missionaries determine specific needs in developing countries, according to Dean Walker, manager of major initiatives in Church Humanitarian Services.

“Requests are submitted, and then we pattern a project to meet the local needs,” Walker added. “We are able to do about 10 to 15 projects a year, projects that instruct health care workers in procedures and practices that result in vision improvements for many individuals.”

Similar to these individuals, Muca sees life much differently following her successful surgery. She explained: “My wish now is to go to university to help those who are in need — to help people the same way God helps me. Miracles do happen.”

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