Eye specialists see over 1,300 patientsPOSTED: 05/16/16 8:33 PM
Would be patients that missed the opportunity to see any of the visiting eye specialists gather to hear the announcement that was made by St Maarten Rotary Club President, Jeffrey Sochrin after they realized that the specialists were unable to see any more persons after they experienced technical difficulties. Photo Today / Milton Pieters
St. Maarten News – The final day of the free eye test and giving out of glasses as part of the Volunteer Optometric Service to Humanity, (VOSH) organized by the Rotary Club of St Maarten came to an unprecendented ending due to technical difficulties.
Several hundreds cued up outside the entrance of the facility as early as 5.30 a.m. yesterday morning. However, only a fraction of them were able to get examined along with the young students and a few elderly persons that were high on the priority list.
For the morning session, about 400 numbers were given out and everything was going well until the power in batteries used in some of the equipment used to run the series of tests died. Efforts to get replacement batteries failed and that forced President of the St. Maarten Rotary Club, Jeffrey Sochrin to make the rather un expected announcement.
However, for those lucky to be examined, they have the St. Maarten Rotary Club to thank along with the team of visiting specialists from Colorado and the man instrumental for getting them here, Rick Cassidy.
David Davis, a retired Navy Captain was just one of the ophthalmologists that has been offering free eye services at the St John’s Home over the past three days. As a teacher of cataract retroactive surgery at the University of Florida, the University of Georgia and the uniformed services, Davis comes to the shores of sunny St. Maarten with a wealth of knowledge.
Davis like his fellow colleagues carries out his practice in Colorado Springs. He said that it’s awfully nice to come out on trips like this. “This makes me feel as if I am giving back something to the people and I have skills that I often don’t use in the States because people don’t need them and we just wanted to come out and help people. No matter how much you give, you always get more back,” Davis stated.
Davis, could not refrain from talking about the hospitality they are receiving and said that they were all impressed by the facilities that has been provided by the White & Yellow Cross located in the St John’s Home.
“We are having an easier time than usual, working in air conditioned rooms, Rick Cassidy, from Fat Tony’s Restaurant and the Rotary Club of St Maarten are certainly taking good care of us because in the past we have gone to places a little more primitive,” he noted.
Because of the restrictions put in place by the government, Davis is only allowed to do a bit of optometry. ”What we are seeing however is a lot of diabetic retinopathy, sun damage to the eyes and a lot of glaucoma.”
According to Davis, it appears that a lot of the cataract patients that are normally seen in similar trips have already been taken care of. He however singled out one young man at a healthy working age who appeared to be strong but had very poor vision.
“That man was suffering from poor vision because he had a severe case of diabetic retinopathy and he needs help to prevent him from a disability. He was actually bleeding from one eye on the inside and if we did not come down here, I don’t now how much longer that would go on before he got some help and that makes me feel good because you would hate to have a person in their 30’s with lack of vision,” Davis pointed out.
It’s a known fact that adults between the ages of 41 and 60 are prone to experience focusing abilities, in a nutshell, vision changes with age. However Davis noted that of the hundreds of kids that turned up as well.
Only a few required serious intervention and those cases will also be taken care of. “Most of them are in good shape, they are healthy, and several of them will need glasses because some of them were severely near sighted. It’s truly amazing when you put on your first pair of glasses and the whole world changes.” Davis said.
While it’s also a fact that most eye related illnesses are hereditary, Davis is of the opinion that it will depend on the type of disease. “Every single human being can get cataract eventually, but that can occur earlier in people that are more exposed to the harsh sunlight and if their diet is not good or if they dehydrate a lot. Pteridium is something that also happens with too much sun exposure as does arc welding. But the diabetes and the glaucoma is more hereditary, the components are stronger and the risks are higher, some are environmental and some are dietary,” he noted.
With the exception of one patient who was suffering from toxoplamosis, (a disease caused by toxoplasmas, transmitted chiefly through undercooked meat, or in soil or cat feces. Symptoms generally pass unremarked in adults, but infection can be dangerous to unborn children).
Davis has not seen many patients with other infectious diseases. “The conditions here are better than in the Dominican Republic,” he added. In comparing the health benefits of residents on the island, Davis said that it’s better here.
“Things are not perfect, we have seen people coming for help and just wonder why they have not sought medical assistance before. There is room for improvement but you can tell that things are better here than in other places. In the United States, vision insurance and health insurance are sometimes separated, they are people that needed help and there were others who were helped.”
With regards to the 3,200 pairs of glasses and 3,000 sunshades, Davis said that they do not want to pack those that were not dispensed and take it back with them. “We certainly would not be able to hand them all out because we have glasses from -12 to + 12 and we don’t want to pay extra luggage space for them. But those between -1 and +1 have already been given out. We still have glasses for persons with more severe cases,” Davis noted.
According to Davis, arrangements will be made to have the extra pairs of glasses and medication stored here so the specialists here can make full uses of them. “I need space for souvenirs,” he said.
Despite the mad rush to capitalize on the free eye tests and the possibility of walking away with a pair of glasses and sunshades over the past three days. Davis described the people that have been waiting for hours as polite and kind hearted with a sense of humor. “That is not so in some other places we have visited, we have enjoyed working with the people on St. Maarten.”