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Local Catholic woman’s prayers answered with free cataract surgery

Since getting her first cataract surgery on May 31, Alice Martinez can now watch her favorite actor, John Wayne, on DVD. The surgery was performed for free by Pecos Eye Surgery Center, which is affiliated with Eye Associates of New Mexico. (Timothy P. Howsare Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Alice Martinez can now see her “boyfriend,” actor John Wayne, along with listening to his deep, commanding voice.

“John Wayne is my favorite actor. Did you know his real first name is Marion?” she quipped.

Martinez recently watched the John Wayne classic, “McLintock!” with her friend and housemate Vera Mein-Taormina.

“Before that I could hear ‘McLintock!’ but couldn’t see it,” Martinez said.

Martinez was born in Mexico but moved to the United States when she was only three months old. Her decades-long legal battle for U.S. citizenship was featured in an article in the Roswell Daily Record in April 2016. She was 81 when she was sworn in as a citizen. Without legal status, Martinez wasn’t eligible for Medicare and Social Security, though she has lived in the U.S. nearly all her life and worked for many of those years.

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Several parishioners from St. Peter Catholic Church, including Mein-Taormina, assisted Martinez with obtaining her citizenship. A local family doctor, Reynaldo Martinez (no relation), saw her for free or only $5 a visit.

A devout Catholic, Martinez prays several times a day for anyone who needs prayer. And now her prayers have been answered.

She was one of 11 patients chosen by the Pecos Valley Eye Surgery Center Eye to have a free cataract surgery. The new surgery center is located directly behind the Eye Associates of New Mexico on South Main Street.

The center opened on May 13 and performed 11 free surgeries that day for Medicare patients.

Dawn Gerencer, who is a registered nurse and director of ambulatory surgical services, said the center was required to do at least 10 free surgeries for Medicare patients to qualify as a Medicare provider. There are other requirements, such as an onsite visit.

Gerencer said Martinez was selected because of her income and other factors such as the length of time she has been waiting for a surgery.

Martinez had been a patient at Eye Associates of New Mexico for the past two or three years, Mein-Taormina said.

Mein-Taormina said Martinez’s vision had gotten so blurry she had to direct Martinez’s hand over her plate so she would know what food was what.

A cataract is the clouding in the normally transparent lens of the eye. Usually, it takes years for a cataract to progress, but Martinez’s left eye seemed to go bad in a relatively short time.

During a cataract surgery, the cloudy natural lens is removed and replaced with a synthetic lens. The procedure takes about 15 minutes per eye, and can be performed in either a hospital or a clinic.

Martinez will have surgery on her right eye on May 31.

“Right now, my left eye is carrying my right eye,” she said.

Mein-Taormina said the surgery on the right eye won’t be free, but Medicare will pay 80 percent.

Without the new surgery center, Mein-Taormina said Martinez was stuck between a rock and a hard place. She said that for Medicare to pay for her friend’s surgery at a hospital, Martinez would need to stay in the hospital at least 24 hours, Mein-Taormina said.

Typically, cataract surgeries are done as out-patient procedures and patients are back to their regular activities the next day.

Mein-Taormina said the staff at the surgery center was “fantastic” in how they treated Martinez, and one of the nurses spoke to Martinez in Spanish, which she doesn’t speak very often.

“This is a miracle,” Mein-Taormina said. “One day (after the surgery) I got up and Alice was looking at the roses.”

Mein-Taormina said Martinez was able to walk to the flowers growing in the backyard without using her quad cane to find her way. Martinez calls her cane “Bruno.”

Martinez said she has a little friend in the flower garden she calls a “winter bird.”

“God works in mysterious ways and God will bless you,” Martinez said.

Community News reporter Timothy P. Howsare can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or vistas@rdrnews.com.

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