Today was the first day at the clinic. We traveled about 15 minutes up the mountain on very narrow roads, while navigating around the sharpest curves. At some points, I thought we were going over the edge. The clinic is very nice and has different rooms for exams, pharmacy, eyes, and check-in. Because it is near the top of the mountain, we can see the lake and the volcano in the distance. It is the most beautiful view and neither words nor pictures can do it justice.
After arriving, we started to unpack the medicines and glasses. Most of us were outside in the beautiful weather sorting through the glasses, deciding whether they were weak, medium, strong, or bifocals. A few of us estimated that there are about 2,450 pairs of glasses donated! Each team member was assigned to a station. I was the eye doctor for today. This consists of having the patient read from the chart and then deciding from that what strength glasses are needed. This was especially challenging for me. I know absolutely no Spanish and this job required a lot of talking with the patient. I had a crash course on simple words that would pertain to my job, such as better, worse, same. The first two patients were very rough. I don’t think they understood what I was saying at all and probably thought I was crazy because I was just saying one word to them but that was all I knew. However, after the first few, I learned what to say and it ended up being very successful. I used a lot of gestures and facial expressions to communicate with them and they responded very well to that.
The first patient I saw was a 19-year old boy who ended up not needing glasses but I had him chose a pair of sunglasses and he thought he looked like a rock star! The next patient had terrible vision; it was about 20-200 which meant that she could not see the top line which has the largest pictures. I went straight to the strongest pair of glasses I could find. She was so excited when her vision improved. I could tell from her facial expressions that she was amazed at how well the glasses worked. It took a lot of trial and error to find the best pair for her, but we found a pair that took her to about 20-30 which is nearly perfect! Another patient was an older gentleman who had about 20-50 and he was ecstatic to be able to see. It was amazing being able to help even though I know nothing about being an eye doctor. By the end of the day I was a pro at helping them find the correct eyeglasses and loved seeing their reaction when they could finally read the chart.