Sunday, May 8, 2011

Amigos Trip Update: Nicaragua (Guest Post: Dylan Hatfield)

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 third of which is being written by current student, and AMIGOS member, Dylan Hatfield!

Hello, I am Dylan Hatfield.  I am a fresh third-year optometry student (and by fresh, I mean I just survived second year).  For those future optometry students out there, you will hear A LOT about second year, second semester.  Yeah, it was a doosey.  Anyway, on a lighter note, I am from Boise, Idaho and currently live in ‘The Grove’ with my wife and three children.  I know, three children, not much sleep going on around my place.

Please feel free to email me with any questions that you might have, regardless of the topic. 
 my family and I at the Woodburn Tulip Festival
One of the reasons that I chose Optometry as a career is the potential to impact other’s lives for good.  Imagine, for one second, helping people see!  How awesome is that?!  When I interviewed at Pacific, I learned about Amigos Eye Care and was instantly interested.  It is one thing to help those with means but even more special to help those who otherwise would not receive adequate care.  That is why I am involved in Amigos Eye Care.
This past Spring Break, I had the opportunity to go with other members of Amigos to Nicaragua.  This was my second trip, as I was able to go to Costa Rica during my first year.  Yeah, that is two Spring Breaks in a row that I have left my wife and children to travel to third-world countries.  Let’s just say that I have the best wife in the world!  (There is my mushy plug for this post.  I promise to refrain from any more juicy details about my marriage).
Okay, back to Nicaragua.  Amid exams, proficiencies and mundane busy work, fellow students and I packed up bins full of glasses, meds, equipment, and other random stuff and headed down to a tropical paradise.  For those of you who don’t know, it rains about 363 out of 365 days here in Oregon.  Okay that MIGHT be an exaggeration.  It is actually really beautiful weather here in the PAC NW.  (Sorry for all the tangents. Focus, Dylan.)
When we got down to Nicaragua, we got to spend a few days enjoying the country.  We spent time in downtown Granada, which was the first city where we held clinic.  We shopped, ate, enjoyed the culture, and meandered.  We also got to do some fun stuff like take a tour of the Volcano Bombacho, visit one of the 365 small islands on Lake Nicaragua, and visit the beach.
Las Isletas (the small islands on Lake Nicaragua)
On our tour of the Volcano Mombacho
Now to the nitty gritty.  This Amigos trip was unique and awesome because we had a ‘traveling clinic’.  We got to travel around Nicaragua and set up clinic in different cities.  We did clinic in five different locations within three different cities.  We even held a half day of clinic at a ZOO!  (Strange, I know.  It was crazy how close we were able to get to the animals.  I could literally touch them!) 
The majority of the locations were actually assisted living centers, so we went down to see a pretty specific demographic. 
Clinic in Juigalpa
Here are a few details of what we accomplished:
  •                 738 patients seen
  •                 65 referrals to ophthalmologists
  •                 Over 800 glasses dispensed
  •                 Over 500 sunglasses dispensed
  •                 About one gazillion artificial tears dispensed
In Juigalpa, as I mentioned above, we spent half a day holding clinic at a zoo.  There was a small building that was quite nice and spacious.  That morning there was one elderly man who was quiet and kept to himself.  He sat and patiently waited his turn for each and every portion of the exam.  By the time he got to me, I was ready to dispense him some sweet glasses.  The catch was, finding the perfect pair of glasses is always difficult.  When you are using recycled glasses, the chances of finding a pair of lenses with the perfect sphere, cylinder, and axis is VERY rare.  Well, my friends, for this kind individual, we hit the jackpot.  I found one pair of glasses that fit the far and near prescription and went and tried them on his face.  He looked up at something far away, and then looked at something close up.  He then lifted his head up at me and said, as simply as he could, “Miro bien!”   I explained to him about the useage of the glasses and all of the proper patient education and he was on his way.  I walked away from him and said to myself, “That right there, is why I choose to come on these trips!”
Also note the right exotropia!
There is a great deal of satisfaction that comes along with Amigos trips.  I strongly urge each and every one of you reading this blog, whether you are a current student or hoping to be a future optometry student, to go on an Amigos trip.  I can make you a guarantee that if you do, you will not regret it! 

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