Meet Our Patients


Michael, a 49 year old carpenter, had a particularly diffi cult year. In December, 2011, he injured his eye in a boating accident and that same week, his fi ancé, Evelyn, was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Her condition worsened quickly and she died within two months. As one can imagine, even though he was struggling with blurred vision, Michael’s eyesight took a backseat.

Shortly after Evelyn’s death, he began seeing large black dots and his eyeball began drifting outward. Because Evelyn had been a patient at the Marin Community Clinic in Greenbrae, Michael went there for help. Javier Alvarado, a clinic employee who was quite familiar with Michael’s situation, made arrangements for him to see Jahangir Sadeghi, MD, a volunteer ophthalmologist. Dr. Sadeghi determined that Michael had a detached retina which needed urgent surgical attention, and both he and Javier contacted Operation Access to arrange for Michael to see a retinal specialist.

Within days, Dr. Arthur Fu, who practices at CPMC, accepted the case. Michael had no idea how serious his condition was or how involved the procedure would be until his fi rst appointment. Dr. Fu explained that he would have to keep his head down for seven days after surgery and would need a chair built specifi cally for this purpose. While most patients usually rent the equipment, Michael knew that he couldn’t afford it. Once again, OA was called upon for help and staff contacted Ben Mapour, of Vitrectomy in Mountain View, who immediately agreed to provide the equipment to Michael free of charge.

Michael had the procedure two weeks after his consultation and was very pleased by his experience at CPMC. “Everything was top-notch. The nurses even sent me a letter in the mail afterward wishing me a smooth recovery.” The 7-day recuperative period went smoothly thanks to a mirror for watching TV and a relatively comfortable sleeping situation. His prognosis is good.

It takes a village...Because each of these people, working in three different counties, took an interest in his case, Michael can continue his work as a carpenter. And he knows that, in times of hardship, there are people who care and who give him hope for the future.

“I was so afraid of not having insurance, but when OA got involved, I was given the best care money can buy…I am so grateful to Dr. Fu and Operation Access, you saved my eyesight. The chance I was given was a godsend.”


“Everything is so beautiful – all the colors of life, the trees and flowers, and my family’s faces.”

Waldo was slowly going blind. His work, detailing new cars, had become increasingly diffi cult, and his driving ability was severely compromised. As a divorced father, and the primary caretaker for his two daughters, Waldo knew that something had to change. He needed cataract surgery, but he had no insurance, and certainly not enough money to pay for the procedure himself.

Fortunately, Waldo was referred to OA. Thanks to volunteers at two Kaiser Permanente Medical Centers, Waldo has come out of the darkness. The cataract in his right eye was removed in March at KP San Francisco’s seventh annual Super Surgery Day, and his left eye was treated at KP Redwood City in September.

Day or night, Waldo is now able to drive his daughters to their activities. His eyesight no longer hinders his work, and he is feeling so confident that he’s considering going into business for himself.

When asked what he would have done without OA, Waldo becomes emotional and a bit teary. “I just don’t know. I just don’t know how else I would have gotten help.” And now?

“‘Todo positivo!’ Everything is positive! I now see everything with clarity, like everything is meant to be seen and truly exists. This kind of thing doesn’t have a price. All of the volunteers and staff at OA will go to heaven. This service is a blessing for people like me who need help.”


Sindy was doubled over in pain, experiencing intense abdominal cramps, and having difficulty working as a nanny for several Marin county families. She couldn’t afford to lose her job – and jeopardize her family’s support –
and she couldn’t afford to see a doctor.

Finally, in early June, after weeks of discomfort, Sindy went to the Point Reyes Medical Center in West Marin. Based on her physical examination, the primary care physician advised her that, pending lab results, she  would likely need surgery. When Sindy heard the word “surgery” she panicked. She had no insurance, and certainly could not afford to pay for an operation. Even if she began saving immediately, Sindy was concerned that she would not be able to accumulate enough money to cover the cost while providing for her family. Despite the doctor’s recommendations she decided that she would not get treatment because the financial burden was too great.

Sindy’s symptoms worsened. She passed out in pain on two occasions. She could barely work, and she was anxious about passing out again – especially in front of the young children she cared for.

Sindy returned to the clinic in desperation, and reviewing the laboratory results, the physician determined that Sindy likely had ovarian cysts. She was referred to Operation Access and then matched with Dr. David Galland, a gynecologist practicing in San Rafael, who has volunteered with OA since 2004.

Sindy told us, “From my fi rst appointment, I was completely comfortable. I knew that Dr. Galland was willing to help me. He took all the necessary time to talk to me and discuss the procedure. I felt like I had health insurance. The best health insurance someone could have.”

Sindy feels much better, is pain free and able to go to work every day. She is truly grateful for the care that she received.

“Dr. Galland is the most amazing human being I have ever met. He appeared in my life like an angel that came to help me when I most needed it. I feel blessed to have been connected with Operation Access, Dr. Galland, and the team from Marin General Hospital. Above all, I feel like I’m getting my life back. This is what life is all about. You give when you can and you receive when you least expect it.”


Right around the time that Ana's husband lost his job, she began to experience abdominal pain, back pain and cramps. She couldn’t lift things and had difficulty walking, which resulted in her being unable to work as a caretaker.

Ana was feeling physically worse and worse and feared that she might have cancer. She went to a local urgent care clinic, an emergency department, and a private physician’s office. Being uninsured, Ana paid the cost of every visit out of pocket, which added to the stress for her family that had no income.

Fortunately, Ana learned about the Marin Community Clinic (MCC) where the physician recommended a colonoscopy, which was ultimately donated by Albert Varner, MD, a long-time OA volunteer, at the Endoscopy Center of Marin.

In the end all went well, and, happily, nothing abnormal was found. It seems that the stress of Ana's economic situation combined with the stress of not knowing what was going on with her body were the culprits. Ana is now healthy and happy.


"I give thanks to God and to you guys that there exists an organization so humanitarian like Operation Access. Because thanks to you, my life returned to normal and now I can work and do my daily activities."

Ingrid, a part-time cashier at fast food restaurant, was experiencing progressively worse abdominal pain that radiated to her lower back. She was unable to do life's simple things, like taking a walk or going to the grocery store. More seriously, her job was in jeopardy because she was frequently not up to her required tasks.

In desperation, she went to the Emergency Department at Martinez General Hospital, and was referred to La Clínica - Monument,  in Concord. The clinic physician immediately requested a surgical evaluation referral from Operation Access.

Ingrid was given priority in the patient queue and matched with John Muir Health surgeon, Ronald Cooper, M.D., who helped her prepare for gall bladder surgery by suggesting changes in her diet.

Post surgery, Ingrid has no gall bladder, new eating habits, full physical mobility, and no pain. Best of all, Ingrid's increased productivity at work earned her a full-time position.


Armando, a resident of San Rafael, earned his living as a construction worker until sharp abdominal pains left him unable to work. Dr. Alan Bonsteel of Marin Community Clinic diagnosed a hernia and referred him to Operation Access. Armando was “going crazy because (he) lost (his) job and had no money,” but “Once (he) heard about OA, (he) felt relieved.”

Like all Operation Access patients, Armando was in contact with his OA Case Manager throughout the process. After receiving top-quality surgical care from Dr. Elaine Yutan and the team of medical volunteers at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, San Francisco, he is once again working at his construction job and feeling great.

I want to say thank you on behalf of everyone who receives care through Operation Access. You made it really easy and we are all thankful. Without you guys, people like me would be having a difficult time.”

Jose M.

In April 2009, Jose, an Alameda County resident, failed the vision test he needed to renew his driver’s license. When his license was revoked, Jose lost his job as a janitor because he could no longer drive to work. Three months later the physician at his clinic diagnosed him with cataracts in both eyes and sent a referral to OA.

The need for cataract surgery was confirmed by Dr. Stephen Tanaka at the Kaiser Permanente Union City Eye Clinic. Two separate procedures were scheduled at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Fremont. In addition to the donated cataract surgeries, Jose also received new prescription glasses through the Eye Clinic.

His plans were to retake the vision test, regain his driver’s license, and enroll in a program to be a licensed commercial truck driver…something he could not have done without OA and our community partners.

Jose H.

Jose, a veteran marathon runner, tore his Achilles Tendon playing soccer and struggled for eight months to get care - while not being able to walk or work. When it seemed things couldn’t get worse, Jose’s wife inured her leg, leaving both of them unemployed and supporting two young children.

Jose finally found his way to the Sonoma Valley Community Health Center, and was referred to OA. We matched him with a new volunteer, Thomas Fitzgerald, DPM, who saw Jose immediately and performed the surgery at
Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital shortly thereafter.

Dr. Fitzgerald knew that Jose’s full recovery depended on more than a surgical procedure. He personally contacted Drew Hittenberger, an orthotic and prosthetic technician, who provided a custom-fit brace for Jose free of charge. Jose’s home clinic arranged for him to receive physical therapy for a discounted fee at Sonoma Valley Hospital.

Jose is back to work and back to running. His current plan is to begin training for the next San Francisco marathon and he will dedicate the race to all the great people who helped him.


"Thank you, thank you, and thank you. You make such a difference. Just keep making this possible."

When Laura went to La Clínica - Monument because of extreme abdominal pain, the doctor thought that it was a virus and told her that the pain would pass. However, after a few weeks of not being able to work or care for her children, Laura returned to the clinic and was referred to Operation Access for a consultation.

Due to Laura’s condition, we immediately contacted a new volunteer at John Muir Health, Dr. Fernando Otero. Dr. Otero found gallstones and began the process to schedule the procedure. Laura was relieved to know why she was in pain, that she would have the surgery she needed, and that the pain would be gone. She left his office with “ 'ganas de sobrevivir' (the will to survive) because help was on the way”.

Laura told us that everyone who cared for her was extremely friendly and she felt that they treated her with respect. She is grateful to all who contributed to her case, especially Dr. Otero.


A couple years ago, Luigi decided to pursue his dream of being a winemaker, and, while continuing to work as a janitor, he enrolled at Napa Valley College. Luigi had been having difficulty breathing and was having dizzy spells, but he soon realized that he had another medical issue. He could not properly smell wine.

At his clinic visit, Luigi found out that, due to an old accident, he needed surgery to repair his nose and sense of smell. He didn’t have either insurance or the money to pay for it. Maybe he would have to leave his program.

Luigi was referred to OA, and we matched him with Charles Meltzer MD, a head and neck surgeon who practices at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Santa Rosa. He could not believe his good fortune to be able to have the surgery, which he never could have afforded. As he said to charmed North Bay Volunteers at a recognition event,

“Operation Access not only helped me with the surgery, but also gave me the opportunity to pursue my passion, making wine. I am eternally grateful to everyone, and I hope that someday we will all be able to make a toast with my own production of Pinot Noir Santini-Dagnino"


"I want Operation Access, Kaiser, and all those who assisted with my surgery to know their warmth, respect, and expertise cannot be measured in words alone. I will find a way to give to others in need as my way of saying thank you."

Peter makes a modest living working as a carpenter and handyman, doing basic home repairs. For eighteen months, he lived with an inguinal hernia, which had “became so enlarged, it was on its way to receiving its own zip code”. He tried to save a little each month to pay for his needed surgery, but as it became difficult for him to earn a living, he soon realized it would take over six years to have sufficient funds.

Ultimately, Peter was referred to OA by the Petaluma Health Center.  And, within a relatively short time after being accepted into the program, his operation was scheduled at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, Santa Rosa where Dr. Richard Bland performed Peter’s surgery, with anesthesia services provided by Gale O’Connor, CRNA and Manuel Diaz, MD.

As his way of saying thanks, Peter generously donated the money he had been saving to the Jewish Free Clinic in Rohnert Park, in honor of Operation Access, KP Santa Rosa and the volunteer team, and the Petaluma Health Center.

Steve had always been self-employed, self-insured, and relatively healthy. But in February of 2010, things changed drastically. The recession  wreaked havoc with his business; he could no longer afford insurance premiums; he was burning through savings caring for his elderly mother. On top of it all, he had a painful hernia and couldn't afford to pay for an operation.

While visiting a friend, he glanced at a local newspaper on the kitchen table and saw an article about Operation Access. He "couldn't believe [his] good luck in finding that paper!"

A physician at the Order of Malta Clinic confirmed that he needed surgery, and, ultimately, Steven Stanten, MD, took Steve's case. Dr. Stanten's  donation of this routine operation, in conjunction with Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, gave Steve back his life, his health and restored his sense of optimism.

''I am so grateful to the fantastic volunteer surgeon who performed my operation. I am pain-free and have my health back. I'm back to living my normal life and I have renewed confidence in the generosity of the human spirit."