Giving 'Gift of Sight' for 20 years

NACOGDOCHES (KYTX) - Dozens of East Texans will remember the upcoming holiday season even better after receiving free cataract surgery. CBS 19's Amanda Roberson has more on 'Gift of Sight' and what it means to those seeing clearly again.

This is the 20th year for Dr. Robert Lehmann of Nacogdoches to offer the 'Gift of Sight'. In this season of giving, he performs cataract surgery for those who would otherwise never be able to afford it.

42-year-old Joan Clark of Tyler has been legally blind in her right eye for more than six months, thanks to a dense cataract that's been forming for years. "I just it began and I could not see. It affected my work, my driving, my family life."

Clark is one of 16 gift of sight patients receiving free cataract surgery."Without y'alls help I would not be able to see, I would not be able to afford the surgery." 

It usually costs about $5,500 to fix one eye.

"It's great that people can have an opportunity to do things like this that doesn't have insurance," added 52-year-old James Blackwell of Nacogdoches. He's a repeat 'Gift of Sight' recipient. 

Blackwell's left eye was corrected four years ago and now he's getting perfect vision in his right eye too. "It's unbelievable when you can see again. I can see but I can't see clearly in this right eye now. It's like looking through a mason jar." 

"This is probably our most exciting day of the year," added Dr. Lehmann.

Dr. Lehmann's surgery means patients will leave his office with perfect eyesight the same day, but he explained anyone can develop a cataract. "Perhaps some ultraviolet light makes a difference and some medications like pretnezone or steroids can contribute to cataracts. When it becomes a bother for a patients activities in every day living, that's when a cataract becomes important."

"I can see out of both eyes!" said Clark after coming out of surgery. The 'Gift of Sight' is restoring her old view of the world.  "I'll be able to work and drive and enjoy life now."  

Blackwell said he's ready to enjoy life too. "The main thing is I can see football good. I can watch Dallas beat Washington!"

Monday Dr. Lehmann performed surgery on patients ranging from their 40 to mid 80's, so cataract can develop at any age. He said the important take-home message is if a person is experiencing poor vision they should go to their eye care professional and have a good eye exam.

For more on the 'Gift of Sight' program and how you can help someone qualify, click here.


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