“The train station to the right, the home directly behind and the building in front of my practice were all destroyed, but I was told my building is still standing and that the inside is ok, which is just a miracle,” she says. “Our home, however, is completely uninhabitable, with most of the roof missing, large holes throughout the interior and massive flooding.” (See photos.)
While Dr. Soto says she’s beyond grateful her family survived Hurricane Harvey, she also can’t help but worry about the future of her practice, as much of the Gulf Coast town of 10,000 was annihilated by the Category 4 monster.
“Rockport will come back from this; I have no doubt about that, but it’s probably going to take at least a couple years. If your home and business were destroyed, would eye care be a priority for you?” she asks. “Also, we’re not near a big city, and we don’t have any industry in our town, so I can’t really rely on patient flow from those areas.”
Staying with her mother in San Antonio, since the night before Hurricane Harvey made landfall, Dr. Soto says she’s been busy contacting ophthalmologists with whom she co-manages requesting they provide follow-up care in her stead, vendors to ask for grace periods and unaffected Texas colleagues looking for relief work in and around San Antonio, so she can help provide for her family while Rockport heals.
“It’s hard for me to wrap my head around everything. You feel like a rug’s been literally pulled out from under you, but I’ve been so blessed by the support, love and prayers I’ve received from optometry, and this includes industry,” she says. “All my vendors have been unbelievably gracious.”
Preliminary estimates of damages from the storm range in the area of $190 billion, about 1% of the nation’s GDP and more than the costs of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy combined, according to the weather firm AccuWeather.
Fred Farias, O.D., F.A.A.O., of McAllen Texas, past president of the Texas Optometric Association (TOA), member of the AOA Board of Trustees and charter member of AOA Optometry Cares adds that he’s spoken with colleagues who have lost their homes, practices or both.
“I invite doctors of optometry from around the country to consider donating to Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief, at aoafoundation.org,” he says. “Helping our optometrists in need will ensure they can return to their homes and practices and, in turn, help their patients,” he explains.
Editor’s Note: We were unable to speak with current TOA president Peter Cass, as he was in the midst of grappling with power loss from Hurricane Harvey.
Johnny is one of Dr. Soto’s kids