The gift of sight: Doctors perform free vision-saving cataract surgery

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — On Saturday, more than a dozen of our neighbors in need received the gift of sight. It’s all thanks to a group of doctors who donated their time to make it happen for the second year in a row.

“It’s all of our favorite days of the year,” said Kathryn Freidl, a physician with Florida Eye Specialists.

Doctors with the nonprofit Florida Eye Cares (part of the Florida Eye Specialists eye practice) and its partner organizations Vision is Priceless and Sunbelt Anesthesia, showed up to Southpoint Surgery Center on Saturday to perform free cataracts surgeries.

“There’s such a wonderful thing about giving the gift of sight,” said Freidl. “This is why we do what we do, this is what lights our fire, and it’s just such a happy day.”

Cataract surgery can cost about $2,000, and it’s a debilitating condition that can catch many off-guard with how quickly it progresses.

William Archer told Action News Jax that in less than a week, the vision in his right eye was gone.

“It was like lightning, really fast,” he said. For the past six weeks, Archer has been struggling with a lot of discomfort.

“An analogy: somebody’s taking a flashlight and just keeps shining it in your face,” he described. “It’s kinda hard to focus on just about anything.”

But after his surgery on Saturday, those days will be behind him and he says he can’t wait to see what lies ahead. “Just get moving on with my life like I used to,” he pointed out.

Seven surgeons operated on 17 patients, including Archer.

“Very grateful, very thankful. I want to thank everyone that was involved,” he emphasized.

But for these doctors, seeing the world through their patients’ healthy eyes is the greatest gift of all.

“They’re just so happy to be able to see the world and see faces and they’re just like, ‘I could see your face!’” Freidl recalled when describing how patients wake up after surgery. “And there’s nothing that warms your heart more than that, and that’s truly the Christmas spirit.”