Dr. Ken Turley – My Calling to Serve

November 2015 | Stories from the field

By Dr. Ken Turley

SEE Doctor

Dr. Ken Turley’s Lifetime of Service

“I’ve always wanted to give back to the community I grew up in,” says Dr. Ken Turley, of Idaho Falls, ID. A medical mission in Mexico provides him with an opportunity to do just that.

 In 2015, Dr. Turley launched a new partnership with SEE International to support an eye care clinic at La Gaviota, a school for disabled children in Mexico. Located in Nuevo Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, the clinic provides much-needed vision care and cataract removal surgeries to many indigent people from the surrounding area, at no cost to the patient. The school itself was founded in 1993 by Ed and Gayle Whetten, relatives of the Turleys. So the site was a natural fit for him! Now, he and a team of fellow SEE volunteer medical professionals will visit the clinic at least twice a year.

The son of missionaries, Dr. Turley grew up in Chihuahua. Since childhood, he has been passionate about volunteering his time and energy to those less fortunate. “I became an eye surgeon, because I see it as my calling in life to serve God by serving humanity,” says Turley, whose Mormon faith has motivated him to excel throughout his career. Since joining SEE as an active volunteer earlier this year, Dr. Turley has already participated in sight-restoring programs to Myanmar and Honduras. He would like to volunteer in Myanmar again soon, and wants to perform humanitarian work in India as well.

This new partnership will greatly benefit the clinic, with SEE providing donated equipment and medical supplies, organizing logistics, and sending volunteer medical professionals to assist on a regular basis.

“The clinic at Nuevo Casas Grandes represents a great step forward for SEE International,” says CEO Randal Avolio. “One of SEE’s primary strategic goals is to establish sustainable permanent clinics in developing countries that lack access to proper vision care. Dr. Turley’s work helps bring us closer to achieving our overall mission of eliminating avoidable blindness worldwide.”

Patient Stories

Maria Dolores Fuentes, 34

Maria suffers from juvenile onset diabetes and one of its early complications—blindness from bilateral cataracts. For three years, she has only been able to see shadows, with no details of anything around her. Like many of the patients who came to La Gaviota, she spent hours getting to the clinic to be evaluated. Maria lives in Tres Rios, a tiny village high in the Sierra Madre. To reach the clinic, she and her mother traveled for eight hours on bumpy, dirt roads.

Her family told us she had become withdrawn and discouraged from having to rely totally on her husband and mother who had to help her with every daily need. When she heard about the possibility of having her vision restored, she had a sliver of hope. However, after Dr. Keith Linford examined her eyes, he told her that, although she was a surgical candidate, prospects for restored vision were low. Linford feared that she might have diabetic retinopathy—a blinding complication of diabetes caused by swelling and bleeding of the retina. Any hope she had seemed to vanish, replaced by apparent skepticism and sullenness.

Under the careful and loving care of the whole Gaviota eye team, Maria underwent successful cataract surgery using phacoemulsification and implantation of intraocular lenses—first in her left eye, and then in her right eye two days later.

After the surgery, Maria’s eyes showed no sign of diabetic retinopathy. She should regain excellent vision once her eyes are finished healing. She was pleased to be able to get around without being led everywhere and she even cracked an occasional smile. She now expects to live an independent life, and be a contributing member of her family and community.

Gabriel Gonzalez, 77

Gabriel is a pleasant, white-haired, 77-year-old man. In spite of his dense cataracts, which caused his pupils to turn white, he still had a twinkle in his eye. When he heard about the surgical mission, he was excited about the prospects of seeing again. Upon arrival at La Gaviota, Gabriel learned that he had a connection to the Turley family. In his younger days, he worked in the apple orchards of Isaac Turley, Dr. Turley’s grandfather. He remembered Isaac’s two sons, George and Melvin, as well as George’s children (including Ken!). During his eye examination and cataract surgery, he recounted many happy memories about his days working in the Turley orchards.

The medical team found Gabriel overwhelmed with joy and gratitude for the renewed gift of sight. He graciously thanks Dr. Linford, Dr. Turley, and the whole eye team for all their tender loving care. “Dr. Turley sure resembles his father!” he quipped, now that he could see him clearly.

Ildefanso (Pancho) Madrid, 69

Pancho is a short 69 year-old, who happened to know Dr. Turley. He reminded Ken that back in the 1960’s they were schoolmates together at the Juarez State Academy (Jr. high and high school), in Colonia Juarez. He mentioned riding the school bus every day from Nuevo Casas Grandes to attend the school. He enjoyed learning English and associating with the 300 or so Mexican and “Gringo” students who attended there. Pancho rejoiced when he heard that his old friend would also be his surgeon. With the cataract removed, Dr. Turley was able to view his retina. In spite of Pancho’s medical challenges, which include hypertension and diabetes, it was healthy.

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