Man wearing eye dressing.

How One Nurse and her Patient Were Reunited on board the Flying Eye Hospital

Jose was a healthy, happy five-year-old playing outside near his home in Lima, Peru when he fell victim to a chance accident. Read about Jose's story below and how he was reunited years later with the nurse who helped him recover from his surgery on the Flying Eye Hospital....

Doctor and patient in recovery room.

Sandy & Jose on board the Flying Eye Hospital last month

Young Jose was playing outside when a metal pointed object hit him in the left eye causing a three-millimeter laceration. Although alarmed, his mom didn’t bring him to the doctor immediately because he was a strong boy and thought he'd heal on his own. However neither of them knew how bad the injury really was.

The next day, Jose’s eye started emitting a watery liquid and became visibly inflamed. His mom took him straight to the emergency room where doctors sewed up his eye with a few stitches, but also told them that Jose had a traumatic cataract and would likely need a cornea and intraocular len transplant given how badly his cornea was damaged. Without the transplant, Jose would likely lose vision in his left eye.

Five days later, a friend working in the local medical community told Jose's mom that Orbis was coming to Lima for the first time in 1991. Jose and his mom reported to the Instituto Nacional de Oftalmologia (INO), Orbis’s local partner hospital in the city, with hopes of being chosen for an operation.

Orbis nurses with young patient.

Sandy & Jose back in 1991

One of the staff members who was working on the Flying Eye Hospital during the Lima trip was nurse Sandy Burnett from the United States. She still remembers how her team helped complete a successful cornea transplant on five-year-old Jose. The positive results of the surgery made an impact on Jose’s life, eventually leading him to study at Lima university to become an industrial engineer.

Little did everyone know that many years later, Jose and Sandy would be reunited in the most unexpected way...


Two years ago Jose was mugged and his attackers gave him a hard blow to the head. The blunt force trauma caused the ocular lens he had repaired to shift out of place and threaten his vision once again. Jose, now a university educated working adult in Lima, went straight back to the team at INO where they recommended eye drops and surgery. Jose’s mom said that Orbis was the only team she’d trust with her son’s eyes, given her positive experience.

Lucky for Jose, Orbis was scheduled to return to Peru. However this time, to Trujillo.

Jose and his mom traveled from Lima to Trujillo -- more than an eight-hour drive. Jose needed a complex three-part surgery which included both another cornea transplant and intraocular surgery. However, lucky for Jose, a familiar face was there to help him through the preoperative surgery and post-operative process: nurse Sandy Burnett, who has since become a long-term Volunteer Faculty nurse for Orbis for over two decades

Jose’s mom immediately recognized Sandy as the nurse who had tended to Jose all those years ago in Lima. Sandy keeps photos and journals of every community she visits with Orbis. Jose’s mom also brought photos of her own!

Sandy Burnett

Volunteer Nurse

I’m glad we could vis­it Peru and help in this way. This is the mag­ic of Orbis and the work that we do, help­ing peo­ple to see again, and recov­er some­thing impor­tant –eye­sight and a real sense of dig­ni­ty– and the future that they’d lost. Jose has grown into such a nice, big, strong, tall man and will be able to con­tin­ue on bet­ter in life now that he has both eyes work­ing properly.

It’s because of volunteers like the wonderful Sandy Burnett that people like Jose can have their sight restored, and live life filled with sight!

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