Our latest humanitarian trip took us to southeastern Europe. Montenegro is a Balkan state on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. It was part of the former Yugoslavia after WWI, broke off with Serbia into FR Yugoslavia in 1992. In 2006, they again became an independent nation. It is a beautiful, mountainous country with incredible views.
Unfortunately, they have issues with poverty with an average annual income of only around $11,000 US. With a population of just over 600,ooo people, they lack certain medical subspecialties. Patients needing oculoplastic procedures, such tearing surgery, eyelid surgery or orbital repair need to travel to Belgrade, Serbia to find the closest doctor. The ophthalmologists at the Central Clinic invited us to come share skills and help them learn some more advanced procedures.
We spent 3 days seeing patients. Two days were spent in the adult clinic, where most of our clientele had tearing problems. Blocked tear drains often require a surgery called a DCR (dacryocystorhinostomy), which connects the tear drain system in the eyelids directly to the nose. We performed about a dozen of these surgeries, along with several eyelid procedures for people with various deformities and degenerative changes. Our last day was spent in the children’s hospital operating on kids with congenitally drooping eyelids and tear drain blockages. Thanks to excellent anesthesiologists, we were able to keep the kids comfortable during the procedures. The physician’s we worked with assisted, and then helped to directly perform the procedures once they were acquainted with the techniques.
Montenegro is a wonderful country with great medical care. I hope we were able to contribute in some way to make it even better.