No photos today due to <good> confidentiality policies at the school.
With us seeing so many patients on this trip, I had somewhat lost sense of what we were doing. Not in a bad depressing way. It’s just that sitting in that plastic chair for 16 hours while nearly 400 people come by almost turns into work. We’d get smiles when someone would try on their glasses and that kept us going for sure. But today was special to get to see, experience and share a bit more with a little guy whose life will never be the same again.
Today we screened over 300 students and staff at Rahab’s School. It was an interesting change of pace from the last 2 days. When we were seeing the community members, 95% of them needed glasses. With the students and staff it was more like 5%.
One little fella stands out. My PlusOptix photo screener (thanks for the loaner Cyd!) had trouble measuring him and he was one of the few who wouldn’t look where he was supposed to. Part of the reason we have been able to see so many patients is because they all so well behaved and follow instructions perfectly.
Any way back to the little guy. After the screener didn’t work, I pulled out my retinoscope. It’s a handheld light that eye doctors can use to determine a prescription in non-verbal patients or when we just want an objective measurement. That was also goofy so I put in a drop of Paremyd. That’s one of the mean dilating drops we use that makes you sensitive to sunlight for four hours.
We told his teacher we’d be back in half an hour and went to a different building. Becki got a call on her phone in essence saying “the little boy who the eye doctor put drops in his eyes is freaking out because he can’t see.” I looked at Becki and said, “I thought that might happen.” Poor little guy was in the main office looking bewildered. I pulled back out the retinoscope and measured +7.50 in both eyes. The drops had slowed down his focusing muscles so he was no longer able to accommodate/compensate for such a huge Rx.
We got him some glasses (thanks again to those who donate glasses; especially the less than hideous broken ones) and then went along for a home visit. This is where AIM staff/teachers….well….go to a student’s home. It’s hugely powerful to show the parents that someone cares. Mom pulled out some plastic stools for us and through an interpreter we gathered that this little guy had been crying when mom made him try to do his homework.
2 miracles here: 1. Mom cared about his schoolwork 2. The groundwork was laid for eyeglasses. Eyeglasses are very much looked down upon in Khmer culture. Not sure if they are seen as a weakness or if it is left over from the Khmer Rouge era where one of the targets was wearing eyeglasses. So we explained that he should wear his glasses all the time and they won’t make his eyes worse. I went ahead and checked mom and little brother but their eyes were great. We will set aside a few pair for his school file so when these go missing he won’t be in dire straits once again.
For anyone living in the States, eye care is available. If you can’t afford it, you can contact a local Lions club, or sit on the corner and panhandle funds to pay for it, or simply call every eye doctor in the phone book until someone takes pity on you. What’s hard to fathom is the idea that it simply is not available to these patients including the little guy we saw today. When I’m reading this post down the road, I’ll keep that in mind as I think of all the reasons I can’t come back.
Tomorrow: ARC. Agape Restoration Center. The first stop once you’ve been rescued.