The vision loss was gradual—like a fog slowly rolling in, over many months. Little things at first: colors seemed dimmer, her eyesight was blurry, she found herself squinting more than usual. But over the course of a year, her vision diminished until she was nearly blind. By the time Christine sought help, she needed the guiding hand of a friend to help her into one of our Community Screening events.
Christine was one of more than 100 people screened last April at the Rockaway Beach Lions Clubhouse. The screening was hosted by the Oregon Vision Coalition (OVC), YVFWC Coastal Family Health, and the Lions of Rockaway, Astoria, Garibaldi, Cloverdale-Nestucca, and Tillamook. The OVC is a partnership with OLSHF, Casey Eye Institute, Pacific University College of Optometry Community Outreach, VOSH, and OOPA. This vital and successful collaboration between nonprofits, healthcare professionals, educators, and volunteers provides crucial health services to members of the community who can’t afford health insurance or expensive treatments. Too many of these individuals are forced to delay seeking care, like Christine, until they are desperate.
“I live two blocks from the beach,” she said. “I can hear the ocean, but I can’t see it anymore.” Christine spoke of how isolating losing one’s vision can be. Her dog, her husband’s face, her ability to navigate the world, faded into a mist. As her eyesight deteriorated, she spent more time alone in her house. Dr. Dan Gradin of CEI/OHSU examined Christine and diagnosed her with dense cataracts. When he informed her that, with surgery, she had a 98% chance of seeing clearly again, Christine broke down in tears. The diagnosis was only the beginning of Christine’s journey. She needed further examinations, and eventually surgery, at the Legacy Devers Memorial Eye Clinic in Portland. Lions Terry and Marilou Bowman stepped up to ensure Christine had transportation and a comforting presence during her appointments. Thanks to our Mission Cataract Program, the cost of Christine’s cataract surgery was covered, and thanks to Dr. Hendrickson of Legacy Devers, the surgery was successful. When her bandages were finally removed, Christine saw the world with a renewed sense of wonder. “It’s amazing. I keep telling people, ‘Look there’s leaves on those trees!’ Everything was new!” There is nothing she takes for granted anymore, and anyone who meets Christine can’t help but be taken in by her vibrancy and enthusiasm. “Thank you. Those two words are not big enough. You gave me my life back. I’m just so grateful.”
We at OLSHF are also grateful, and as our 60th-year celebrations come to a close, we still have much to look forward to. Every year is a fresh start, but 2020 is the beginning of a new decade that evokes a clear vision. This New Year 2020 signifies our goal to ensure that every child in the state of Oregon has their vision screened and access to the follow-up care they need. This year we celebrated the passage of Oregon House Bill 5015, which allocates $2 million for schools to use for vision screenings for the biennium, but we still have work to do. As we reflect on all the success of 2019, we can’t lose sight of the challenges ahead. We have the roadmap to get there, but we need your support.
All of our success stories are the result of hard work—a collaboration with Lions Clubs and healthcare providers, the care of our staff and volunteers, but most importantly, donors like you. Your donation plays a direct role in every screening, every surgery, every person’s sight or hearing restored. And because 100% of your donation directly supports our programs, every dollar matters. This holiday season, we are grateful for you, and all of your generosity. We wish you health, comfort, and happiness.