Yaisel and the
miracle of surgery
Leandro Maceo Leyva,
THERE are ingenious people for whom
there is no description other than invaluable. This
is revealed by the Cuban Operation Milagro (Miracle)
program and the 60,000-plus operations which have
been carried out by Cuban doctors from 2006 to date.
All of these surgeries have been at no cost to
patients whose vision has been restored or improved.
Behind this reality, Cuban
internationalism consists of people like Yaisel del
Carmen Medina, a young ophthalmological surgeon who
has been working since last March as the only
specialist of her kind in La Rennaissance Community
Reference Hospital – headquarters of Operation
Milagro in Haiti – located in Port-au-Prince, the
According to Yaisel, when she
arrived in Haiti in October of 2011, two aspects of
the program were functioning: one mobile and one
fixed. Today, when only the latter remains, the
order of the day continues to be commitment and
dedication, concepts which have made it possible not
only to maintain high standards of quality and
quantity among patients seen in clinics and those in
the operating room, but increasing their numbers.
What do you think are the reasons
for the program’s success?
As time passes, people begin to
communicate its existence to each other. When a
quality service is provided, they also communicate
that. The Haitian population knows that surgery is
undertaken free of charge, they know of the prestige
of Cuban doctors and the impact on the quality of
life of the people through work undertaken during
Moreover, you have to take into
account the sense of identification that we have
achieved as a working team. This coordinated effort
from the pre-operative line, clinical compensation
and the arrival of patients in the operating room,
in conjunction with skills acquired during the 23
months that I have been in Haiti have made possible
the results demonstrated today."
How is the everyday work organized?
We undertake operations Monday
through Friday, with an average of 15-18 cases a day,
while we see from 80-85 in the consulting rooms. A
pre-operative line is taken with these patients:
blood analysis, a medical check, and when they are
ready, we give them an appointment for surgery. We
don’t only see cases of cataracts and pterigyium,
because other patients come with disorders highly
common in Haiti, such as corneal infections and
We also undertake active surveys,
generally on Saturdays, when we go to different
communes, after prior coordination with the medical
personnel in these areas, and from that find
patients who are given a hospital appointment.
What is the average age of people
Adult patients, aged over 50 years,
although a lot of young people come, suffering from
traumatic cataracts. When we do an ocular ultrasound
on them, if the retina isn’t detached, we remove the
cataract and they remain with good visual acuity.
They are people who can work and undertake other
The hardest part?
The language barrier. We have
translators in the consultation area and in the
hospital rooms, but only through the pre-operative
stage. Afterward – in accordance with requisites
which must be respected – there are only the nurses
and myself as surgeon. It’s difficult because you
have to tell patients to look down, not make any
abrupt movements and keep looking at the light, but
many of them don’t understand and move in the middle
of surgery. That is something which always makes
How much do you think the work you
all do has contributed to increasing the quality of
life of the Haitian people?
Restoring someone’s vision is
something great, with a significant impact on a
population with very limited resources such as the
We are talking of patients who
arrive for appointments blind, with the practical
help of family members. I have seen some who crouch
in the doorway because they can’t see to enter. Then
after surgery, they achieve more than 60% vision.
And they express it?
Haitian people are not as openly
expressive as we Cubans are, but yes, they are
grateful. They are not patients who, when you take
off the eye dressing, give you with a smile, or
display satisfaction; however, when you ask if they
can see well and feel content, then they show it.
A period to forget or keep?
Definitely to keep.