In early 2016 HelpMeSee launched a campaign in Peru to identify pediatric cataracts and restore sight to children in need. This campaign was made possible with funding from HelpMeSee's generous supporters and our project partner, USAID's Childhood Blindness Prevention programme. To carry out this project, HelpMeSee partnered with Instituto Damos Vision, a Lima-based eye hospital that specialises in preventing childhood blindness.
Instituto Damos Vision (IDV) was founded by Dr. Luz Josefina Gordillo Robles, a champion for children's eye health in Peru. Dr. Gordillo’s career in ophthalmology began nearly three decades ago, as a medical student at San Marco University in Lima in the early 1980s. While a medical student, she completed three years of ophthalmic residency and one year of rural service; she also trained in general surgery and pediatrics. Inspired by her mother’s experience with vision loss after a misdiagnosis of low tension glaucoma led to blindness, Luz determined early on that she wanted to work to prevent blindness in her career.
When she finished her residency, Dr. Gordillo realised there were very few pediatric ophthalmologists in Peru, so she traveled to the United States to train with Dr. Maynard Wheeler. Once she completed her fellowship, Luz returned to Peru and found Peruvian ophthalmologists weren’t screening children for many common eye diseases. She began her work by screening thousands of babies born prematurely for visual disabilities, including retinopathy and cataracts, and providing sight-restoring treatment whenever needed. Later she decided to start her own eye hospital, Instituto Damos Vision, to help devote her efforts to helping children and to train others to restore sight.
Dr. Gordillo completes a post-op checkup on Marlon's eye (down), and Luz examines another pediatric patient after his successful cataract surgery (up).
When HelpMeSee began planning its latest campaign in Peru, Instituto Damos Vision is an ideal match as a partner hospital. Dr. Van Charles Lansingh, HelpMeSee's Medical Officer for Latin America and Dr. Gordillo applied to USAID's Child Blindness Programme for funding to screen for pediatric cataracts and red reflex, as well as train additional pediatric cataract specialists in Peru. Thanks to this generous grant, they organised a workshop in Lima to train 38 pediatric nurses for the screening programme and train additional ophthalmologists to perform pediatric cataract surgeries. Dr. Gordillo believes it is critical to invest in training specialists at every level – doctors, nurses, technicians – to identify patients and restore sight in Peru.
Three of the children Dr. Gordillo helped treat for pediatric cataracts (from up to down): Lennon, Matias, and Marlon
Since partnering with HelpMeSee on this project, Dr. Gordillo and Instituto Damos Vision have provided sight-restoring pediatric cataract surgeries, reaching some of the most remote corners of Peru. "All of those patients and their families can enjoy a better quality of life – they could be normal children who study at regular school," "Without any screening, these children would be blind," she said. Thanks to her advocacy, children in Peru are now receiving preventable blindness screening. As these patients were screened using the HelpMeSee Reach App, which records patient information along with their GPS location, the long-term follow-up care needed for pediatric patients can be supported as these children grow older.
For Dr. Gordillo, this project has been the culmination of her long career. She told us, “The most rewarding thing about my work in pediatric eye health is that we are able to save children´s eyesight every day.” Outside of her work, Luz enjoys reading, swimming, and tending to her garden, all of which serve as reminders of the gift of sight. But she’s also mindful of the future, spending her free time teaching and training “because if I leave, the work will be continued by other people.” Thanks to Dr. Gordillo’s hard work and dedication, the future of Peru is in good hands.