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Goodwill kept in sight

Doctor will perform free eye surgery on five Orange County residents who can’t afford the corrections because of recession.

December 16, 2009|By Brianna Bailey

Last Christmas, Dana Point resident Kerri Larson bought a pair of over-the-counter reading glasses after she noticed that she had to strain to see her computer monitor.

A year later, she can’t drive, see friends waving to her on the street or read a book. Aggressive cataracts are rapidly cutting off Larson’s vision. Each day, colors are less vivid, faces less distinct.

Larson, 39, lost her job as an executive assistant after the company she worked for went out of business in June, leaving her without health insurance.

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If she applies for disability assistance, insurers won’t cover any of her medical costs relating to her cataracts, because they would be considered a preexisting condition.

“I feel so useless,” Larson said. “I can’t even pluck my eyebrows, or paint my toes — it’s just amazing what you take for granted,” she said.

This year, Larson is hoping for a Christmas present from Newport Beach eye surgeon Gregg Feinerman.

Feinerman is giving away five free eye surgeries to Orange County residents this year to celebrate the five-year anniversary of the nonprofit organization he founded, Operation In-Sight.

Operation In-Sight has helped restore the sight of hundreds of people in developing countries by performing free surgeries and offering training and surgical equipment to doctors there.

Earlier this year, Feinerman traveled to a rural area outside of Hanoi, Vietnam, to perform surgeries to restore the eyesight of poor farm workers there.

One elderly Vietnamese woman was so elated at being able to see after Feinerman removed her cataracts, that she grabbed the doctor and began to dance after the operation.

“They’re typically really excited and so appreciative,” Feinerman said. “It feels good to give of yourself.”

As the country slowly pulls itself out of a deep economic recession, Feinerman wants to focus his philanthropic energies closer to home.

He’s had no problem finding people in Orange County who can’t hold a job or care for themselves because a simple surgical procedure to restore their sight is out of reach.

For many of Feinerman’s patients, a simple, five-minute surgical procedure makes the difference between 20/20 vision and not being able to read street signs, or a book.

“They can get up off the table and read a clock,” Feinerman said. “It’s the difference between that and being able to feed themselves.”

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