Sunday, April 10, 2011

Giving Some Love to Costa Rica (Guest Post: Kevy Simmons)

AMIGOS Eye Care is a non-profit organization of students, doctors and lay people affiliated with Pacific. AMIGOS is dedicated to providing quality vision care at no cost to underserved people in the Portland area and throughout the world. Since its establishment in 1975, AMIGOS has grown to become one of the largest eye care providing organizations in the world, bringing services to thousands of people at home and abroad.

Because so many prospective students are interested in AMIGOS, I have decided to ask 4 current students, who went on recent AMIGOS trips over Spring Break, to share their stories.  I hope you enjoy the series, the first of which is being written by current student, and AMIGOS member, Kevy Simmons!

In my opinion, spring break exists for spring skiing. Flowing on slush through the ’park in an oversized hoodie with good friends on a low-40’s, bluebird day is my Garden of Eden. As obvious as the decision may be for you fair weather fans, you can imagine how difficult it was for me to commit to spending my entire break in a country where snow is as foreign as my red hair. Having served on similar AMIGOS trips to Central America in years past, however, I felt pretty good about trading in the skis for a week in Costa Rica.

AMIGOS trips are typically divided into relaxing getaways and busy, long winded clinics. If the pure educational thrill of seeing a new ocular condition first-hand doesn’t get you delightfully geeked out on optometry, the vacation days alone are worth missing a week of whatever you thought you’d rather be doing. And of course, I can’t forget the essential ingredient, an inevitable result of returning clarity to the functionally blurred, a product of rendering service freely given, that mushy euphoria hidden deep in the soul which you would never admit to feeling until you’re caught writing in verse and smiling to yourself without a reasonable excuse. I’ll spare you the poetry for now, but I hope that by the end of this post, all three of you who read to the end will be able to share in my enthusiasm for providing eyecare to the underserved residents of San Jose.

The four days of clinic were fast-paced and high-volume. There’s no better opportunity to refine clinical skills and gain exposure to abnormal findings. As a clinic team, we saw 960 patients and identified the following:
  • diabetic retinopathy
  • congenital nystagmus
  • Sturge-Weber syndrome
  • basal cell carcinoma
  • Duane’s syndrome, type I
  • amblyopia
  • glaucoma
  • toxoplasmosis
  • latent nystagmus
  • 3rd nerve palsy
  • prosthetic eye
  • choroidal atrophy
  • optic nerve pallor
  • macular degeneration
  • familial drusen
  • traumatic cataract
  • afferent pupillary defect
  • asteroid hyalosis
  • iris coloboma
  • downbeat nystagmus
  • ataxia telangiectasia
  • optic nerve drusen
  • degenerative myopia
  • bilateral 6th nerve palsy
  • angle-closure glaucoma
Jon Hughes feels the difference between normal and extremely high eye pressure.

In addition to seeing patients with ocular disease, we screened kids from the surrounding schools. With their easily distractable, energetic nature, they challenged us to increase our efficiency and take as much information as possible from a single glimpse of an optic nerve or retinal reflex. Even our brave first-years, having little experience with retinoscopy or opthalmoscopy, stuck it out through stifling heat and strained muscles to get the job done:
Our non-clinic adventures included a guided tour by horseback and zipline, a nature walk through the national park, sight-seeing in downtown San Jose, a free jazz concert, and a night out on the city’s club scene. And a vacation to Central America is not complete without a swim in the tropical, blue-green, 80-degree waters.
Emily on the superman zipline.
 Manuel Antonio Beach
Clinic was not the only place for new sights, as illustrated by this river of crocodiles. I had never seen a sloth either, but since this one never moved, I’m not entirely sure it was real…
Costa Rica gave me an abundance of writing material, some of which is more difficult to photo-document, but certainly much more than I could post on a blog without exhausting you or myself. I could tell you in a hundred different ways how rewarding and life-changing it has been for me to help deliver eyecare to the masses in Honduras, Guatemala, and now Costa Rica, but it’s just one of those things you really have to experience for yourself to truly understand what a privilege it is.

P.S. If you want to see more of Kevy's adventures in Costa Rica, check out his video here.  I also encourage everyone to make a donation to AMIGOS today.  Questions or feedback for Kevy?  Leave them in the Comments section!

1 comment:

  1. Very cool to see people giving back to those in need. What better gift can someone give then sight! Look forward to hearing about your travels through Costa Rica, as well as hear about the other locations that AMIGOS visited during their spring break.