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Feb 21, 2008

Lions clubs holds clinics to improve eyesight

Story PictureThere are few senses more precious than sight … which makes it all the more puzzling why so many Belizeans suffer eye problems in silence. Tonight News Five’s Janelle Chanona reports on what happens when medical care is free and aggressively marketed.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
For the last six days, the Lester Young Training and Resource Centre has been the scene of organised chaos. Since Saturday, two hundred patients a day have travelled from across the country to receive free eye exams and if necessary, second hand glasses.

Two of them are eleven year old Cassia Collins and her brother Jaime who left their home in Corozal at four this morning to see a visiting specialist.

Janelle Chanona
“Tell me what you see when you try see from far?”

Cassia Collins, Student
“Like snow.”

Janelle Chanona
“Snow? And how long you di see the snow?”

Cassia Collins
“From standard four.”

Janelle Chanona
“And what happens to you when it happens in class?”

Cassia Collins
“I have to do like this…(puts fingers under eyes) to see good.

Standard six student at Independence Primary Zane Cabral has a different problem.

Zane Cabral, Student
“I can’t see good through this one but this one I can see good.”

Janelle Chanona
“So what you see through the next one…how it look?”

Zane Cabral

Janelle Chanona
“Smeary? And how that affect you?”

Zane Cabral
“Cause when you can’t see through this one it kind of shocking cause, people tease you, like dat deh.”

But according to primary school teacher Olive Ramos poor vision affects hundreds of Belizean students.

Olive Ramos, Standard 4 Teacher, Independence Primary School
“Some of them have red eyes, their eyes hurt when they do homework they have pain in the head and stuff like that…”

Janelle Chanona
“Do they complain about seeing the blackboard?”

Olive Ramos
“Seeing the blackboard, we have to put some of them in the front, we have to keep closing windows because of the light, the glare and constantly they are absent because of headache and pain in the eyes and stuff like that.”

Since 1992, the Belize Lions Club has championed the cause of sight preservation. At their invitation, the Kemptville Lions Club in Ontario Canada agreed to come to Belize to conduct a free clinic. And the four optometrists, three opticians, a nurse and their assistants have been busy diagnosing eye conditions. The most common among them is something few of us ever think about.

Dr. Peter Laansoo, Optometrist
“It’s a sunburn, it’s a simple sunburn that happens on the white of the eye, very common and very easy to happen. A lot of people are spending time outdoors, not burning on the skin very easily but burning on the eyes and so what happens there is the eyes burn then they run water is the complaint that we’re hearing and going back out to the sun after that, a skin starts to grow over the top of the eyes, which is very difficult to remove and causes all sorts of trouble. So our biggest advice for people is to remember your eyes when you are in the sun, wear a hat, keep your eyes in the shade of a hat, wear sunglasses and best is to wear both.”

And while sunburns can be prevented, some eye conditions can only be treated.

Dr. Peter Laansoo
“Cataracts is probably is the second most popular and glaucoma. Cataracts are the lens inside the eye getting cloudy, it’s like a window getting dirty inside the eye. Glasses only helps a little, that needs surgery and we’re sending our patients to the B.C.V.I. for that. And then glaucoma is something that if it’s gone too far it can’t be fixed so we are treating that with eye drops trying to slow it down. And Belize has an excellent health system, the eye drops are readily available and that’s helping a lot.”

Laansoo’s advice: get regular eye exams. But according to Paul Mahabir, the coordinator of the Canadian Vision Care Program, a Lions affiliate, eye care isn’t on the priority list for many people.

Paul Mahabir, Coordinator, Canadian Vision Care Program
“A lot of them are living with the daily struggles of meeting, putting food on the table, they don’t have the extra money to buy eye glasses or even pay for an eye exam so we are getting a lot of patients in our clinic who are so grateful because they’ve had that opportunity to get a new eye glass and improve their life. In many cases it might be simple things like a reading glass. Someone, the other day, was saying now she can do some sewing before she couldn’t see to sew anymore so it helps the family to maybe create some income and at the same time giving them a sense of responsibility, helping out at home.”

For local Lion Bobby Lopez, more structured support for protecting vision needs to be implemented.

Bobby Lopez, Coordinator, Lions Eye Clinic
“There seems to be quite a need for it and I would want to see, I know B.C.V.I. offers…and they have other their branches…but somehow it needs to be upped a little as far as service, especially to the young people because they are obviously having some problems that need to be, maybe just an education program, to inform kids of what can affect their eyes and what they need to be aware of and then somehow trying to get those that really need, early than having them suffer right through with the headaches and everything.”

But thanks to the Lions Club, at least one little girl won’t have that problem any more.

Dr. Sarah Cooper, Optometrist
“She has some nearsightedness and astigmatism so she’ll definitely see better for faraway with some glasses.”

A similar clinic has tentatively been planned for May. Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona.

Patients in the eye clinic were pre-screened by members of the Lions Clubs in Belize City, San Estevan, San Pedro and Belmopan. For more information about the initiative, please contact Carol Cabral at 610-3764.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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