reflections - THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY
We're All of Value
A small miracle drives home a wonderful lesson.
BY GERRIT DEVRIES, O.D., DEMOTTE, IND.
The blanket of sawdust was soft to my knee as I knelt before my patient to examine his right eye. The downside was that my scrubs were now coated from shin to knee. The aroma of sawn wood permeated the air and reminded me of a few years prior when the floor covering in another village location was a fresh layer of pine needles. Conditions of the "exam room" are always unknown until our brigade bus pulls up at the site and we venture inside. Today, the sawdust hid the rocky surface of a concrete floor that had never been floated and troweled. The pine needles had covered only dirt. That's Honduras.
PHOTO BY PAT SIMIONE
He looked sad, this Honduran man of 28 years. He'd come with his father and had struggled to find the seat in front of me. His glasses, strapped to his head, were obviously in wretched condition and one glance told me they were of ancient lenticular design and profusely scratched. He could see through this keyhole into the world, but certainly not well.
The young man assisting us this morning was one whom we had trained just a few hours earlier in the operation of the autorefractor. He handed me the small paper readout and above the noise of the generator he apologized for not being able to get a reading. "No Value," read the words following the OD and OS. I knew this patient was going to slow me down and with the hundreds of poverty-stricken people in this barrio seeking help, I had to be thorough but brief. It hurts to leave someone at the gate when it's time to pack up and leave. These people wait all day holding their umbrellas as protection from the sun. I can't let them down. But now here's this man -- "No Value," says the printout from the auto refractor.
Digging into my bag of tricks
Trial lenses. A 12, and I get a huge "against" motion with my Copeland. I try a 20, and it's still not enough. That's all I've got! I dig in my bag for my flipper bar to combine two lenses and I go back and forth until finally the right eye scopes out to a net of around -21.50. The left settled into a -23.50, give or take. Patients were backing up! My two colleagues were working as fast as they could to take up the slack. No reason to check the cylinder precisely as I knew the used glasses we had brought would be ballpark at best. I did a quick "shake and bake" through all the scratches. His present pair was considerably under-corrected. Could we possibly have anything that would approach his level of myopia?
My wife, who has assisted me in all of my vision ministry trips to Honduras, searched through the many pairs of glasses that we had brought with us. And low and behold, there it was! A beautiful high-index pair of "pequito" (Spanish for "small") glasses in the range of -18. Removing them from their plastic bag, she opened them and placed this miracle pair of used eyeglasses on his face, as his mouth opened into a smile as big as Tegucigalpa (the capital city of Honduras). His lips quivered and tears flowed -- his as well as those of us witnessing this miracle.
No man could ever have been so pleased.
He looked at me and I saw Value. Thank the Lord for reminding me: Every one of
us is of value.
DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH RENÉ LUTHE, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 643-8132 OR LUTHER@BOUCHER1.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR
Optometric Management, Issue: April 2005