Dr. L. Neal Freeman, chief of ophthalmology at Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne, board-certified surgeon with Florida Eye Associates and volunteer ophthalmologist with the humanitarian organization Surgical Eye Expeditions International, took his 14-year-old son, Lev, with him on a surgical trip to El Progreso, Honduras,in March.
During the past 22 years, Freeman has completed 15 humanitarian trips tovarious countries to assist patients whodesperately need eye surgery, but cannot afford it or don’t have access to it. He has helped patients in Bulgaria, Mexico, and in South and Central America.
“I’ve been doing this for a number of years and it always occurred to me (that) to see the reality in these underdevelopednations would be quite enlightening for an American youngster who has not been exposed to this type ofthing in their life,” Freeman said. “It’s an outstanding opportunity for our youth to gain exposure to how this area of theworld is living.”
Lev, the oldest of Freeman’s three children, is an eighth-grader at WestShore Jr/Sr High in Melbourne. While spending his spring break in Honduras with his father, he helped fill out patient charts, looked up words his father needed translated and observed surgeries.
“I really liked it,” Lev said of the six-day mission. “It was something that I felt was very special. Not many kids get that opportunity in their life, and I just enjoyed watching my dad work. It was a great experience.”
Lev described the remote areas anddifficult clinic conditions they worked in, saying it taught him to not take anything for granted.
“I just realize it’s good to live in America where there’s numerous doctors and it’s a clean environment. In the future, if I get another opportunity, I’d like to go.”
His father was pleased with how Lev handled the experience.
“I was very impressed with my son and how he tolerated the physical situations well,”
Freeman said. “He dealt witha lot of the compromises we faced interms of personal hygiene, the change in food and the long days of work. I think he’s a far more knowledgeable and worldy person now for the experience.” Freeman has been a member of Surgical Eye Expeditions International since the late 1980’s. He says his goals in completing these trips is to do as much good as he can, to be a goodwill ambassadorfor the United States, to educate the local foreign physicians in various medical techniques and regimens they may be unfamiliar with and to provide them with medical supplies when possible.
“I look forward to the opportunity to continue this type of work and hope we can bring as much good to people less fortunate throughout the world,” he said.
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