COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - An eight-year-old girl is very far from her American Samoa home as she undergoes what will be a life-altering operation.
Lourdes Iputi is from American Samoa. She has cataracts in both her eyes and can't see.
She's getting them removed for free - thanks to the Spring Valley Rotary Club's medical charity called "Gift of Life." Eva Pele and her husband are serving as the girl's host and guardian. They first met Lourdes while on a medical mission trip.
"It's a blessing to us, my husband and I," Pele said. "We look at it as a privilege to help a child. If she had not come to the clinic, we don't know what would have happened to her. She wouldn't have been able to see for the rest of her life."
Pediatric ophthalmologist Alexander Pogrebniak, M.D., is performing the surgery to remove Iputi's bilateral cataracts. The first surgery was Thursday.
"The cataracts look calcified and she has had them for a very long time," said Pogrebniak. "Lourdes is going to have to learn to see again. The vision
centers of the brain deteriorate from lack of use. Her brain has forgotten how to see."
Dr. Pogrebniak will perform the second operation next week.