Drawing on the Jewish values he learned as a boy, an East Hanover ophthalmologist is recruiting other eye specialists to bring free cataract surgery to patients who do not have insurance and cannot afford the procedure.
“Individuals with cataracts and poor eyesight don’t have the time to waste,” said Dr. Cary M. Silverman, the founder of Vision Harvest, now in its fourth year. “These patients require medical intervention sooner rather than later.”
On Friday, Nov. 30, doctors will perform the free procedures at the River Drive Surgery and Laser Center of Elmwood Park during Vision Harvest 2012. Joining Silverman will be Dr. Kenneth Miller, of Miller Ophthalmology Associates in West Orange, and Dr. Michael Farbowitz of Short Hills Ophthalmology. All three said they got involved in the program out of a commitment to their Jewish values.
Miller has taken part since the inception of Vision Harvest. “It’s a great way to give back,” he said in a phone conversation. “It’s such a gift to have the skill and to be able to do this surgery. In Judaism, it’s important to give back and give to the community. I think that’s a great thing to do, and it’s rewarding.”
Silverman credited his parents and grandparents with instilling in him at an early age the value of appreciating “everything we have in life and to show empathy to those with less. Tzedaka has always been an important foundation in my life, and Vision Harvest is merely an extension of this value,” said Silverman.
“Nothing feels better than giving the gift of sight to those who most need and can least afford it.”
Over the upcoming weeks, the three participating eye physicians will evaluate prospective cataract patients and schedule them for the free procedure, which includes eye examinations, testing, medications, and surgery.
The surgery center donates the space and staff to Vision Harvest, materials are contributed by the company that produces them, and the doctors give their time and skills. So far, Vision Harvest has helped about 50 people. Most live in the tri-state area, but some have come from as far away as Florida, Tennessee, Nevada, and Maryland.
Cataracts are the result of a progressive condition that causes the eye’s lens to become cloudy, and eventually opaque, leading to a dimming of one’s vision. The exact cause of cataracts is unclear, but they occur in everyone as they age. Cataracts may be the result of a lifetime of exposure to ultraviolet rays, and may also stem from such factors as cigarette smoking, diet, and alcohol consumption. Cataracts can also occur at any age as a result of other causes, such as eye injury, exposure to toxic substances or radiation, or certain medications or as a result of other diseases such as diabetes.
The cataract surgery takes six-eight minutes, and leads to what Miller termed “dramatic” results, in part because the improvement can be noticed almost immediately. “It’s like people are reborn. It’s amazing how excited they are. People treasure their vision. Removing the cataract is a life-changing event,” he said.
Anyone interested in participating as a patient should contact Vision Harvest at 973-200-8250 or Miller at 973-325-3300 no later than Nov. 23 to set up an evaluation.