I was reminded this morning of why we go. Here’s a letter from the far reaches of the world where this little guy (only 6 years old) talks about possibly losing his father to pneumonia and his mom has myopia. Catch that? Pneumonia and myopia in the same sentence. We often think about myopia as “just nearsighted.” However when you can’t get eyeglasses, myopia is just as bad as macular degeneration or a retinal detachment.
On my last trip I had a few emails and Facebook posts saying, “I wanna go with you sometime.” Here’s the short of it: you don’t want to travel with me. I’m not fun to be around under the best of circumstances let alone tired, hungry, stomach upset and emotionally drained. But the main reason I haven’t been taking teams of 12 with me is because where we are working it wouldn’t be much more productive to bring more hands.
If Stacy and I had another eye doctor couple with us, we could have seen maybe 10% more patients. Often times translators are the limiting step. “Hire more translators.” It’s not that simple. We enjoy working with small groups where the local missionaries have time to talk to the patients. There is absolutely nothing wrong with big medical camps. That’s just not our heart right now.
So why this post? Because I’m still saying you should go. If you’re an Optometrist, you have an incredible skill set for the missions field. With retinoscopy alone you can determine glasses Rx and cataract status. Let’s be honest, beyond that it is going to be difficult to handle much more complicated cases. I’ve chosen that as my line in the sand. Maybe your line is diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma or retinal detachments. It doesn’t matter where your line is, just draw it ahead of time. Uncovering problems that will take half of your missionary’s annual salary and half of their time isn’t generally feasible.
It’s OK to not try and fix everyone. Be honest with yourself-there are patients in your office today that you can’t “help.” This afternoon I have a 42 year old lady who I diagnosed with RP a few months ago when she came in for new readers. I can’t fix her eyes. No one this side of heaven can. But I can hold her hand through the process.
I’m no expert at eye care missions trips. There are tons of folks who have done a lot more. However I’ve gone on a half dozen so if you have questions/concerns or need some pointers/encouragement just let me know.
2 days ago we purchased our tickets to head back to Cambodia in late January 2015. We’ll be working with Agape International Missions again in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Needless to say we are back into planning mode.