Imagine suddenly going blind and not being able to afford a simple surgery to fix it. That's the damage cataracts can cause, forcing people out of work and stealing their independence.
But Fort Worth has a unique clinic that's changing lives for free. NBC 5 followed one Denton woman on her journey back to sight.
On a recent morning at Fort Worth’s Cornerstone Cataract Clinic, Lisa Morgan took a big leap.
"Lisa, what are we going to do today?" a clinician asked her. "My right eye," she answered.
Standing on the edge can be scary.
"Yeah, very anxious," Morgan said.
But it's nothing like the fear of losing the world around her.
"I couldn't see," said Morgan.
It came on quickly, severe cataracts that left Morgan legally blind for a year.
"These are my babies," she said, pointing to a row of photos of her young grandchildren.
In her blind months, she missed precious moments in her grandchildren's lives.
"I couldn't take care of them," Morgan said.
She tripped and broke both knees.
"This knee, I broke the patella," she said pointing to still-visible scars on her knee.
And she fell into a deep depression.
"What are you good for?” Morgan asked. “I mean really what are you good for? You're not good for nothing. You can't drive, you can't babysit. Because if something were to happen with the kids then I can't drive them to the hospital. It's very devastating."
Morgan didn't have insurance and couldn't afford the surgery that was her only way out, until she learned about the Cornerstone Cataract Clinic.
Through a partnership with Alcon, it’s the only dedicated cataract surgery procedure room, and free clinic, in the country.
"It's a huge, huge impact," said Dr. Aaron Amacher, who performed Morgan’s surgery.
Doctors like Amacher volunteer their time for a 15-minute surgery that changes an entire life.
Morgan had her left eye done back in February.
"Just the one eye was miraculous," she said.
After her second surgery, she left with her right eye patched, and with new hope.
"Can't wait until tomorrow," she said, walking out the clinic doors.
The next morning, NBC 5 joined her at the Community Eye Clinic in downtown Fort Worth, for the big reveal.
"Oh OK, OK. Ooh, I see really weird right now," Morgan said as she took off the patch.
It's an adjustment but soon, Morgan can see how much her life just changed.
"E and it looks like L," she said, reading off an eye chart.
"Yeah, that's great. That's 20/20," the doctor answered.
"Oh is it?? Yay, that's amazing," Morgan said. "It's amazing. It's absolutely amazing. I mean I'm, I'm sorry. I went so long without being able to see."
Doctors said they shouldn't be finding such advanced cases here.
"In the United States, you really expect to see mild cataracts," said Dr. Jennifer Deakins, Clinic Director of the Community Eye Clinic. "It's just amazing because usually in a developing nation, you would see these kind of cataracts."
Without being able to afford medical care, patients are feeling their way through life. But for Morgan, that's all over now.
"OK, let's see what I can see, Community Eye Clinic, 655 Taylor Street," Morgan said as she stepped out onto the street. "I can read that license plate FXK… West 5th Street, see I can see that all the way over there."
The world opens up.
"Ah! It's so gorgeous out here!" Morgan exclaimed.
And the future looks bright.
"I'm very blessed, very blessed," she said.
The Cornerstone Cataract Clinic has performed more than 120 free surgeries in the past five years. For more information, visit: http://www.canetwork.org/cataract_clinic.aspx