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Eye doctor’s vision sharpened helping others

God blessed Highlands Ranch ophthalmologist Jim Conahan and his wife Molly with many miracles through their vision-restoring surgery clinic in Ixtapa, Mexico—once Conahan said ‘yes’ to God’s plan.

The couple along with their three children established the ministry, the Mission of Healing Eyes, in 2007 to serve the area’s impoverished blind.

“It’s immediate and it’s amazing, and you can imagine the incredible joy on both sides,” he said of the patients who come for healing, as well as the doctors and staff who provide it.

The joy is crystal clear once Conahan, a parishioner of St. Frances Cabrini in Littleton, removes blinding cataracts from patients’ eyes and replaces them with implants. When vision returns the next day, many see for the first time in years, such as “Juanito.”

“Juanito had cataracts in each eye and literally couldn’t see two feet in front of him,” Conahan said of the 47-year-old who had been blind for 10 years. Therefore Juanito had never seen his 6-year-old daughter Angelina, who was with him at the clinic.

“When Brian (my son) took his patch off, he didn’t look at Brian, he didn’t look at me; he looked over at his daughter and just whispered: ‘Muy bonita Angelina.’

“Meaning you’re just so beautiful,” he continued, “because he had never seen her.”

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Conahan said with each mission trip, now 17, there is always one story like that.

“This (ministry) is really a group of dedicated volunteers whose spiritual inspirer is Mother Teresa,” he said, indicating it’s more than humanitarian work. “We use her model: that we would like to see the face of Jesus in these blinded poor.”

A core group of 12-15 volunteers travel to the clinic twice a year, every October and May. The next trip is scheduled for May 17. In seven years, they have seen some 7,000 patients, performed more than 1,700 cataract surgeries, and distributed more than 12,000 pairs of glasses.

“The amazing thing is the story behind it,” Conahan said. “This has nothing to do with Jim Conahan and everything to do with turning your ‘yes’ over to God and letting him navigate it.”

The seed was planted in March 2006 when the family: Jim, Molly and children: Megan, Matt and Brian were vacationing in Zihuantanejo, Mexico. Conahan had previously done cataract surgeries on the east side of Mexico with a group from Boulder County Hospital, and because his children had accompanied him on the trips, they were aware of cataract symptoms.

“I was sitting on the beach enjoying myself when Megan (then 14) came up and said: ‘We need to come down here and start seeing patients … everyone has cataracts, you can tell.’”

With good intentions, but not much optimism, he told his daughter they could look into it—knowing that obtaining government permission, finding space and purchasing supplies were huge undertakings.

“I don’t want to squelch your enthusiasm but it could take years,” he told Megan.

Piece after piece of the puzzle continued to fall into place until Conahan realized God was hitting him “over the head with a two-by-four”: permission was fast-tracked, clinic space was offered, supplies were sold to him at a significant discount, and medical staff volunteered to go. The following October they returned to Mexico—each hauling 50 pounds of supplies—and established the clinic.

“When we arrived there were 150 people waiting to be seen,” he said. “And it stayed that way consistently for the next four days.”

Word of their healing ministry has continued to grow through the years, and the Conahans and their team continue to respond.

“This is God’s plan,” he said. “In my humility what I had to realize is that it was really about my arrogance in the beginning. It was about me saying ‘yes’ to God and he just took care of the rest.”

For more information, visit www.healingeyes.webs.com.

Donate glasses
During Lent, St. Frances Cabrini Parish at 6673 W. Chatfield Ave. in Littleton will collect prescription and reading glasses and sunglasses for the Ministry of Healing Eyes in a basket outside the gathering space. To make a monetary donation, call the parish at 303-979-7688 or visit www.healingeyes.webs.com.


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