We are aiming for 1800 donated pairs of specs. Based on projections this is realistic and should be achievable…it also happens to be the number of patients we saw in Dominica in February 2016.

Day 1

Day One of clinic in Portsmouth turned out to be a great success thanks to a steep learning curve for all involved. Setup was slow going as usual for day one, but the crew was pretty well seasoned by midday. It’s an art performing 4 eye exams simultaneously in a 10′ x 10′ room, but with a little practice and a fresh team, we got into rhythm.

In total we managed to care for just over 300 patients Day One. There were many “firsts” for all involved including practitioners, opticians, and patients, alike. For many patients, this was their first eye exam and pair of prescription eyeglasses, sometimes after decades of poor vision. It was moving to witness.

Providers also encountered some unique original experiences. Dr. Wilson observed a rare ocular condition he mentioned only being familiar with from textbooks. In addition to the diagnostic benefit for the patient, it became a valuable learning opportunity for optometry students present on the trip.

Day 2

After our Day One warm-up, the team really came together overcoming challenges on Day Two. It’s amazing how these trips catalyze team building in such record time.

The original clinic location was in disrepair following damage caused by recent tropical storm Erika. After an impromptu venue change to a much smaller facility, the day began with some doubts we could surpass our day one performance.

A “can-do” attitude from the team and immense gratitude expressed by the patients kept the operation going in spite of sub-optimal conditions. Ultimately, we managed to examine and provide eyewear for more than 400 patients–100 more than day one!

Day 3

Day Three we divided forces with Dr. Wilson’s team traveling to Grand Bay and Jason’s to St. Joseph. Grand Bay was among the hardest hit villages by tropical storm Erika and the damage was apparent most of the journey there. Abandoned vehicles and washed out roads and bridges will likely serve as reminders of the devastation for years to come. Rebuilding is a slow process on the island.

Dr. Wilson was particularly impressed by the people of Grand Bay. Many walked for hours, over difficult terrain to seek care with the clinic. Their hardships were some of the greatest we encountered, yet their attitudes were perfectly pleasant, thankful, and selfless. He expressed it was inspiring to see, and a privilege to care for, them as patients.

The St. Joseph clinic was a similar story. Great and gracious patients paired with an efficient team made for a very productive day. Our two groups combined cared for more than 400 patients on Day Three.

Day 4

Day Four seemed to be what we were training for all week. With all hands on deck, we managed to see a full 700+ patients in assembly-line fashion. Although the process appeared mechanized, the experiences were anything but. It was a day filled with smiles, hugs and many amazing people leaving with vision that was “plenty better” than it had been when they arrived.

Our resources waned somewhat near the end as our glasses supply was exhausted. It became a challenge to outfit patients with their proper prescription with our goal evolving from 20/20 to 20/”happy” as we estimated a best fit.

Over the four-day stint, our team cared for approximately 1,800 patients in total. It was a memorable and rewarding experience I’m sure none involved will soon forget.