The story I’m about to tell you is one of countless happy beginnings, made possible by the Sponsel Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing resources and services to advance the research, diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases and trauma for the poor and underserved communities in San Antonio, South Texas, Guatemala and Africa, since 2012.
Mr. Cinco appears feeble with his head hanging low, as the 65-year-old is slowly guided by his wife into the Roger William Lytle Clinic in Chichicastanengo, Guatemala.
A massive tumor has enveloped his left eye and the decision is made to remove it. During the operation, his surgeon, Dr. William E. Sponsel, founder and chairman of the Sponsel Foundation, notices a good red reflex behind the nuclear sclerotic cataract, prompting its extraction and implanting of an intraocular lens (IOL), replacing the eye’s natural lens.
In other words, Dr. Sponsel, believes the eye can be salvaged.
Because of a cataract that is completely occluding his sight in his other eye, he has been without vision for 15 years.
Twenty-four hours later comes the anticipation of a most joyous moment. It is known as, the one day post-op smile.
As, ophthalmic assistant and president of the foundation, Joanne Yawn, explains, “It means our patient can see after being blind. It makes us forget our long hours, aching feet and backs. It acknowledges our purpose for why we are there. Best feeling in the world!”
The bandages are removed and after assessing his ability to count fingers, Dr. Sponsel excitedly holds his hand up to give his patient a high-five. Mr. Cinco thought the doctor was asking him to say how many fingers he was holding. With a big smile, he answered, “Cinco!”
From that moment on, he became, “Mr. Cinco.”
Mr. Cinco returned to the clinic a year later to have his left-eye cataract successfully replaced. This time he walked into the clinic, his head held high, with “Mrs. Cinco” on his arm. He had been given the gift of sight and was, once again, the patriarch of his family, no longer having to depend on others for his mobility.
In 2016, the Sponsel Foundation teamed with doctors from around the world to open a modern eye clinic in Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world. It is a permanent, full-time clinic where surgeons and researchers can engage in vision related projects and surgeries. During the first year, 1000+ patients were screened and over 300 surgeries were performed, many on children.
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness after cataracts, but, according to Dr. Sponsel, “It doesn’t have to be.” His vision of eradicating this cause of blindness around the world is a sight for life.
For more information about this life-changing foundation and how you can help to keep these clinics open, please visit:
Sonny Melendrez is an award-winning motivational speaker, Hall of Fame radio/TV host and author, based in San Antonio. For more of his enthusiastic brand of inspiration and speaking information, visit his official site: or email him at: mailto:sonny@sonnymelendrez. Subscribe to his inspiring podcast, “The Sonny Melendrez Show,” wherever you access your podcasts.