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Two-day eye clinics serve hundreds with exams and eyeglasses - Medically Speaking, Volume One, Number Three, 9/12/13

Two-day eye clinics serve hundreds with exams and eyeglasses

Life is a little clearer for many residents of the Montezuma Creek and Monument Valley areas today, thanks to two special vision clinics held by the Moran Eye Center and The Hope Alliance earlier this week.

The clinics were hosted by Utah Navajo Health System, Inc., but so many people showed up to take advantage of this unique opportunity the clinic was moved the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel, just north of the Montezuma Creek Clinic, on Monday. On Tuesday, the clinic was held at the Monument Valley Elementary School to accommodate those who wished to be seen. UNHS COO Michael Jensen said he had no idea there would be so many people wanting to attend the clinics, but he said he was thrilled to see such a large turnout. He was also grateful to those from the Moran Eye Center and The Hope Alliance who came to provide this great service to the local residents.

According to Michael Yei, International Program Manager for the Moran Eye Center, from the University of Utah, this was the first venture between his group and The Hope Alliance. The Moran Eye Center's work is primarily eye surgery, and it is done all over world. Yei, who has worked with Kenneth Maryboy's Navajo Santa program for the past seventeen years, said he wasn't sure how many people would show up for the two-day clinic, but he was pleased with the turnout. He was also pleased with the work done by The Hope Alliance.

"Moran Eye Center does eye surgery, and we needed a partner to come in and do glasses. We thought this would be a good opportunity to see their operation and to do a joint project on the Navajo Reservation," Yei said. "This is our opportunity to work with The Hope Alliance, and see how they work, so when we go to places like Peru we can take them with us. I think they do very good work."

Yei said the Moran Eye Center does work in many parts of the world, and this project with The Hope Alliance on the Navajo Reservation is just a one-time project. But, he said the Moran Eye Center hopes to come to Montezuma Creek once a month and do surgeries, especially if the need is there. He said the numbers at this week's clinics indicate there is a real need for eye surgery in this area.

Many of those who came down with The Hope Alliance were volunteers, like Dennis King, a semi-retired financial adviser. King called volunteering with The Hope Alliance, "the most rewarding thing he's ever done in his life." For King, helping with this week's project was a family affair. His son-in-law, Chris Bogus, is an Optician, and the Vision Project Coordinator for The Hope Alliance. King's 9-year-old granddaughter, Maddy Bogus, also made the trip and helped sort out glasses and run errands, King said. In just over a year of helping with The Hope Alliance, King said he has already made a trip to Peru and he hopes to make more trips.

"One thing about helping people is that once you do it, it gets in your blood and you can't wait to help," King added.

Rosemary Hullinger, a member of The Hope Alliance's Board of Trustees, said she started working with the group in 2005. She said once she made a trip to Peru, she was hooked.

Hullinger explained that The Hope Alliance was founded in 1999 by Dr. John Hanrahan, a family practice physician from Park City, Utah; and Joe Mitchell, a Park City Minister. The Hope Alliance uses a "hand up" not a "hand out" approach, according to cofounder Hanrahan, who says, "We are a diverse group of citizens partnering with communities in need to raise their quality of life through sustainable, locally operated projects."

Hullinger explained that her organization brought over 2000 pairs of glasses to San Juan County for this week's project. She said the glasses were acquired through a number of ways, including Eagle Scout projects, collection drives conducted by various organizations like Lions Club, Rotary and other groups, community collection drives and various other means. The glasses are cleaned and inspected to make sure they aren't broken and then they are examined using a Lensometer to see what prescription the lenses fit. That information is then put into

a database.

When patients come to a vision clinic, like the ones held this week, they are given an eye exam, and their results are put through that data base to find possible prescriptions that might fit their needs. They are then taken to a fitting station, where they are given three or four possible prescriptions that might work for them. Yei explained that they try to get as close as possible to the correct prescription. Those receiving glasses were told these are not full accurate prescriptions, just an estimate of a prescription that will work for them.

"For people without access to healthcare this is a simple solution, but it's a start," Yei said. "Each individual is given the results of their eye exams, and if they want a more precise rescription they can see an eye doctor, like Dr. Ron Kirk, in Blanding."

The Moran Eye Center was available to give a more comprehensive eye exam to those people who waited. Those found to have cataracts, diabetic retinopathy or other more serious eye conditions could have their data collected if there was a need, and when the Moran Eye Center comes back each month to provide surgery, they can contact these people and let them know they will be down to do surgery on certain days.

Melissa Caffey, Executive Director of The Hope Alliance and one of just three full-time employees, said most her organization's work is done out of the country. She said the group has done a lot of work in places like Peru, Guatemala, Haiti, Kenya, India and China. She said this week's clinics were a unique, rewarding opportunity to work with the Moran Eye Center and serve the people here. The Hope Alliance's eye clinics are just a part of the work it does, but in the past ten years, the group has distributed over 100,000 pairs of glasses worldwide, alone. The organization has also built medical clinics, schools, libraries, clean water wells and other projects that add lasting value to the communities served. It also prides itself on the amount of medical outreach work done in these remote areas. Caffey said The Hope Alliance is different from a lot of other humanitarian organizations because it asks the people of each area what they would like to see done, and what they need help with. She said it makes no sense to build a well in an area where the people don't want, or need, a well.

Apparently, the residents in the Montezuma Creek and Monument Valley areas needed the eyeglasses and eye exams, when the Moran Eye Center and The Hope Alliance came this week. Some residents began standing in line at 7:00 a.m. in Montezuma Creek, waiting for the doors to open at 8:00 a.m. The line waiting to get into the Chapel extended all the way around the building. Some residents actually got an appointment time and went home, instead of waiting in line.

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