reflections - THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY
From Novelty to Necessity
A mission trip forever changed the way I view
life and the profession of optometry.
STEPHEN T. PIERSON, O.D.
main area of optometry in which I have found the most fulfillment working
in missions came as a surprise because it found me. In fact, while in optometry
school and upon graduation, I never considered doing this type of work. But, a single
event in the middle of Ecuador changed all that. . .
I hadn't had my optometric license for three months
when I got a call from my church's pastor. He informed me the church planned a Mission
America Placement Service (U.S. MAPS) trip to Riobamba, Ecuador, which consisted
of a medical team and a construction team, and he asked me to go. MAPS is an organization
that coordinates volunteers to assist ministry institutions with construction and
The medical team, he said, planned
on distributing hundreds of glasses from the Lions Club. However, the person who
was to distribute the spectacles had no optical experience. This is where I would
After picturing a number of sight-challenged
Riobambans disappointed to be stumbling around in the spectacles in which they had
placed so much hope, I decided I'd better join the mission to ensure the spectacles
each individual received met his or her visual needs.
With some help from a few colleagues,
we gathered 1,000 pairs of spectacles prior to the mission's departure. My favorite
spectacles: a pair of +15.00D aphakic ones, which made the wearer's eyes appear
to quadruple in size.
I suspected my fellow team members
and I would have a great deal of fun with the magnifying effect of these glasses.
I was right, as these spectacles were passed around a lot, deeming them quite the
novelty item. In fact, many of the team members had their pictures taken wearing
HealthCare Ministries sends several eye doctors
to far off lands to help.
Plight for sight
Toward the end of the trip, it looked as if we
were the only ones who would get any pleasure from these spectacles. That is, until
Rosa, a nine-year-old Riobamban girl, presented to the clinic wearing a pair of
Examination of Rosa revealed a history
of congenital cataracts. These were removed years ago, leaving her aphakic. The
reason for her visit: Her spectacles looked as if someone had taken a sand blaster
to them. In fact, Rosa could not even achieve 20/400 with her glasses, and it was
impossible for me to make out the power of the lenses.
Now, I knew the +15.00D aphakic glasses
we had in our possession could help Rosa. Once I placed them on her, her faced beamed,
and she started reading letters off the Snellen chart. In fact, she read the letters
all the way down to the 20/40 row.
I stood in awe as I realized that what
had been considered a novelty just a few days ago, had become a necessity to improve
this little girl's quality of life.
Since this eye-opening (no pun-intended)
experience, I have attended four mission trips to Mexico each with its own
rewarding experiences. I plan to go on many more in the future, and I encourage
you to go on such a trip so you can see for yourself how it changes your outlook
on life and our profession. OM
For more information on Healthcare
Ministries, visit www.healthcareministries.org.
DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE
EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH JENNIFER
KIRBY, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC
MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 643-8139, OR KIRBYJ@LWWVISIONCARE.COM.
OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.
Optometric Management, Issue: December 2006