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Providing hope to the hopeless

Published in Eye Care Author:

Abel Vargas, age 68, believed he would die blind.

“My life was very sad,” he confessed. “I was alone, sick and had no money. If I died, I had nothing to lose. I was desperate. Then God sent Julia to me.”

Julia Gordon is a community resource liaison for CentraCare’s Coordinated Care Clinic, an innovative primary care clinic designed for patients with complicated medical, mental health and social needs. The program partners with the St. Cloud Police Department, Place of Hope, Central Minnesota Mental Health Center and Stearns County Human Services. It connects people to medical care, housing, food and other resources so they can achieve their best health.

“Abel had a lot of health issues, including COPD and high blood pressure,” explained Julia. “But his main concern was his vision. Not only did it affect his quality of life, but it was also dangerous. He couldn’t read his medication labels or even survive on his own.”

The Coordinated Care Clinic worked with Abel to get him back on medications to stabilize his health. Julia then met with CentraCare’s Patient Financial Services to find income-based financial assistance programs that would help with Abel’s vision.

Abel’s eye problems began six years ago. At first things grew blurry and then, little by little, he lost the vision in both eyes due to very dense cataracts, a condition where the lens of the eye becomes cloudy or opaque. His vision problems cost him his job, dignity and hope.

“It was like hell,” said Abel. “I wasn’t sure if it was day or night. I was disoriented. I had to feel for my food and use a walker.”

Fortunately for Abel, Julia located funds for an eye evaluation by both a retina specialist and ophthalmologist, Daniel Peterson, MD, of the CentraCare Eye Clinic. Dr. Peterson then performed successful cataract surgeries on both of Abel’s eyes.

“He had a big smile on his face when we took the patch off after surgery and he was able to see normally again,” said Dr. Peterson, who went into medicine to help others lead better lives.

Abel is thankful to everyone who helped him and now delights in everyday moments, such as being able to shower, brush teeth, eat independently and marvel at the beauty around him. “I go out at night to see the moon and during the day I look up and see the sun — it’s like I’m newly born.”

According to Julia, the change in Abel has been pronounced, noting that he is happier and more confident. “At the Coordinated Care Clinic, we don’t give up on people and give them the second or third chances they need.”