reflections - THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY
Doc's Best Crusade
travel adventures don't mean nearly as much as my adventures in helping those less
TANNEBAUM, O.D., F.A.A.O.
my 13 trips thus far as a volunteer for Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity
(VOSH) International, I've had adventures that could rival those of Tom Brokaw.
On a mission trip to Bangladesh,
I had to be transported by ambulance to the local eye hospital, due to political
upheaval. Apparently, the party that lost an election was so angry about the outcome,
many of them scorched neighborhoods and riddled buildings with bullets.
To celebrate our mission work in Santiago Papasquiaro, Mexico, the two wealthiest
landowners tried to outdo one another by throwing us their own lavish parties complete
with steaks, tequila and mariachi music.
The room in which I stayed
in Bolivia was so small, I could take a shower and use the washroom at once.
Although these experiences have been
amazing, they cannot compare with the ones I've had as an O.D. in helping those
who do not have access to vision care. Here is some information about my work and
my most memorable patient encounter.
Tannebaum has been on 13 trips thus far as a VOSH volunteer.
The panache of VOSH
I am part of a group that is invited by a governmental
party, medical mission, health organization or social workers to provide vision
care to those less fortunate. My fellow volunteers (eyecare practitioners, nurses,
pharmacists, social workers and others) and I bring our own exam equipment, ocular
drugs (provided by the various pharmaceutical companies) and used spectacles (sometimes
in the thousands). Usually, the Lions Club neutralizes the glasses.
Once we arrive at the mission destination,
we set up our own examination stations. These can be
located in the rooms of schools, a
community center or an existing clinic.
We examine foreign patients in the
same way we examine patients in our own practices, only we utilize translators in
non-English speaking countries to help us obtain the patient's case history and
test his visual acuity. Then, we use the automated refractor to determine the eye's
error, look into the back of the eye for evidence of disease (frequently with dilation),
write the necessary prescription (if any) and dispense the appropriate spectacles
and/or medication. These steps require many volunteer personnel, as we typically
see 300 to 400 patients per day.
Nice to see you
My most memorable patient encounter thus far occurred
on a mission trip to Poland. A woman in her 30s presented physically carried by
one of her family members, as she has been blind since birth. Retinoscopy, however,
revealed a light reflex. The patient displayed such severe myopia in both eyes,
she could only view objects placed closer than her nose.
I placed a -30.00D lens over her eyes,
and she screamed, "I can see! I can see!" A -30.00D prescription was not available,
so my fellow volunteer eyecare practitioners and I placed three -10.00D lenses together
in a makeshift frame.
When I placed the spectacles on this
patient, she gleamed with a smile and asked for a mirror. When she saw herself,
she asked, "don't you have a better-looking frame?"
I guess you can't please everyone.
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: January 2007