Practice Becomes Eyecare Hub in Wake of Oklahoma Tornado
O.D. with flooded donations to help victims.
When Curt Massengale, O.D., returned to his unharmed Moore, Oklahoma practice the day after the 200mph tornado leveled much of the Oklahoma City suburb, killing 24 people (including 10 children) and turning thousands of homes to rubble, piles of twisted metal and splintered wood, he had no idea he'd become the go-to place for victims requiring vision care. (On that Monday, he, several staff members and patients fled his practice for shelter in the lower level of a mall roughly two miles away and emerged in one piece. The affected area of Moore was two miles away from his practice.)
"The phone in my practice was just ringing off the wall on Tuesday morning, and one of my staff members told me that a local news station announced we were providing free contact lenses and glasses to anyone who lost them due to the tornado," he explains. "My immediate reaction was, 'What?! How did they get that information?' Staff member Candice Austen confessed to calling the news station to say our practice was operational, but never said we were offering free eye care."
Dr. Messengale in action post-tornado.
Feeling grateful his practice, home (located in Oklahoma City), friends and family were safe and concerned for those displaced by the storm who required eye care, Dr. Massengale says he huddled with his staff and told them, "I don't know how we're going to do this, but we're going to do it, and if that means we eat all the cost, then we eat all the cost." (See "Help for Oklahoma," below.)
As of May 23, that hasn't been necessary, as several local and national companies who got wind of Massengale Eyecare have been donating services and products to the practice, the Moore O.D. says. For instance, Remote Area Medical Oklahoma, a mobile medical, dental and vision program, has donated lens blanks, water to run an edger (the practice's plumbing wasn't working) and frames. Also, the practice's local lab Team Effort has promised to lend a hand once it gets back its electricity, and the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicans has sent e-mail blasts to its members informing them of Massengale Eyecare's needs, he says. Many have responded with donations. In addition, after personally reaching out to various eyecare companies, most have been more than willing to send needed products, such as lens solutions and contact lenses, Dr. Massengale says. Finally, he says he's contacted other O.D.s in Moore to let them know his practice is up and running, should they want to see their own patients there.
"One O.D. called and asked whether I could see a one day post-op PRK patient of his," Dr. Massengale says.
Thus far, Dr. Massengale says he's seen a total of 60 patients he doesn't normally see for spectacles and contact lenses. In addition to the PRK patient, he says he treated a young boy who sustained a minor corneal abrasion as a result of the cyclone. Further, he says he's dispensed roughly 50 pairs of glasses and six months of contact lens supplies to 25 patients, in addition to his responsibilities at his own practice.
"It's been so incredibly humbling to help the victims of the tornado," Dr. Massengale says. "I can't imagine coming home and finding nothing there. I was so lucky. I am just in awe of these people that they remain happy and grateful."
Help for Oklahoma
• Donating. Go to Optometry Cares — The AOA Foundation. http://mailview.bulletinhealthcare.com/mailview.aspx?m=2013052201aoa&r=5171614-d1ab&l=005-330&t=c and click on "Donate" at the top of the page.
• Volunteering. Volunteer O.D.s, technicians and opticians are needed at Graceway Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Oklah. Call Sasha at (405) 751-7727 to donate time or equipment.
• Getting help. Contact your state association or Optometry Cares http://mailview.bulletinhealthcare.com/mailview.aspx?m=2013052201aoa&r=5171614-d1ab&l=006-066&t=c directly to initiate financial assistance.