Fergus Falls Optometric Center
"Family Eyecare from the Eyecare Family."
Dr. Mark D. Olmsted and Dr. Christine A. Olmsted
117 E. Lincoln Ave.
Fergus Falls, MN 56537
Appointments: 218-736-7555

Donated Lion's Club Glasses Put to Good Use - 14 Feb 2005

Donated Lion's Club Glasses Put to Good Use
14 Feb 2005

Donated Lion's Club Glasses Put to Good UseSo you've just got a new pair of eyeglasses and you don't know what to do with the museum of old eyewear buried in your sock drawer. Don't throw them away. Donate them to the Lion's club so that someone less fortunate than you may use them. Every eyecare office in town, including our practice (Fergus Falls Optometric Center, Ltd.) has a bin for just such a donation.

My wife and I know from first hand experience that these old glasses are used. While in our respective last year of optometric training, we each went on a trip to a poor area in a foreign land on volunteer eyecare missions. The group sponsoring these trips was VOSH, which stands for Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity.

I went to Port-au-Prince, Haiti arriving on Super Bowl Sunday, 1986. We students stayed at an orphanage for a nominal fee. The "rich" doctors stayed at the Castle Haiti Hotel, fancy for Haiti, but sort of Motel 6-esqe with palm trees by US standards. Every morning, a bus would come down from the hotel with the optometrists, dentists, nurses, and support staff and pick us up. We traveled to the rural area and did our exams in an old open-air school. Thousands of people lined up daily for these free exams. If an Rx was prescribed, the Lion’s glasses were dispensed under a thatched gazebo by support staff. They were adjusted by heating them with a kerosene lamp. Donated eye medications were also prescribed when required.

It is quite hot in Haiti, so everyone wore surgical scrubs, which are made of very comfy, light cotton. On the fourth day of our six day commitment, we were interrupted by the coup de tat that ousted dictator Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. Our orphanage “boarding house” was only 2 blocks from the Presidential Palace, which was pretty cool until the trouble started. I was out on the street with another volunteer when I heard a gunshot around the corner, only 10 feet from me. A woman, who actually spoke English said, “Don’t go there…” Seconds later a man came around the corner shot through the upper arm, bleeding horribly. Now, if you had just been wounded by gunfire, whom would you follow? Maybe the guys dressed like surgeons?! We quickly trotted back to the orphanage with our newly wounded acquaintance in tow. He of course needed help, but the nuns at the orphanage refused to let him enter. They were afraid of repercussions from the secret police, who had shot him. Shortly thereafter, we hired a driver to take us to the Castle Haiti Hotel, where we stayed for two nights until things quieted down and we were able to leave the country. Incidentally, the dictator was flown to France only four days later by the U.S.A.

My wife’s mission in early 1989 was a bit less scary. Her group joined an El Paso optometrist who leads frequent volunteer trips across the Rio Grande to Juarez , Mexico. Her very first patient was a man who had only recently tried to sell drugs to a stranger. Not only did the stranger steal his drugs AND his money, but also he used a knife to cut out the man’s eye. Of course, there were flies and such crawling around this nasty wound. After calling the chief optometrist and one of her classmates to also see this horrible sight (Her classmate has never really forgiven her for this!) they made arrangements to get the patient to a hospital. Her trip was for three long, busy days, but machine gun fire didn’t put her to sleep at night as it had for us in Haiti.

Clean out your dresser and drop off your old glasses to a Lion’s club bin near you. They do get used and the volunteer doctors who prescribe them get very memorable and rewarding experiences.

Dr. Mark D. Olmsted