Erika Serrato’s eyesight had been deteriorating for seven years.
When she worked outside, her eyes would become painfully dry and irritated, she said through a translator.
As her eye disease worsened, Serrato’s fears of blindness increased.
She was suffering from pterygium, an abnormal growth of fibrovascular tissue which extends from the “white” of the eye onto the cornea and eventually over the iris.
On a recent Thursday afternoon, a grateful Serrato sat in the waiting room of the Florida Lions Eye Clinic waiting for a checkup after surgery on her second eye.
This was the fifth time she had traveled three hours from Dade City to the eye clinic in Bonita Springs for assessments, surgeries and follow-up appointments.
Arranging transportation and finding a friend to act as an interpreter was not easy, but she was more than willing to do it.
The Florida Lions Eye Clinic is the only facility in the state offering free eye care and surgeries to uninsured people living at 200 percent or more below the federal poverty line.
Formerly known as the Bonita Lions Eye Clinic, it recently changed its name to reflect the greater geography of the clientele it serves, said its new Executive Director Tamika Seaton.
“We have had patients come from as far as Tampa, Miami and all over the region to see us,” she said. “They didn’t have any other options.”