WSD 2017: How SEE Docs Are Making Vision Count Through Natural Disasters

This past month, SEE International has been working diligently alongside many other vision care nonprofits worldwide to increase global awareness of “avoidable blindness and its causes” by collectively promoting IAPB’s (International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness) International World Sight Day and its 2017 theme “Make Vision Count.” Showing SEE International’s commitment to this important education and advocacy initiative, SEE’s Board of Directors matched all donations (up to $20,000) made to SEE during October 2017.

One of SEE’s most active volunteer surgeons, Dr. Aisha Simjee, traveled to Puerto Rico this month, to do her part to “Make Vison Count.” Dr. Simjee is a remarkable physician who has dedicated her professional life (plus much of her free time) to helping others regain the gift of sight. Board-certified, fellowship-trained and recognized as a compassionate ophthalmologist, she is also known as an expert in corneal disease and has performed numerous corneal transplant and cataract surgeries around the world. She has received considerable honors plus multiple prestigious awards for her local and global charitable work.

In Puerto Rico, she will provide eye care to children who have been profoundly affected by the total devastation wrought by last month’s Hurricane Maria. With more than 25% of the entire island’s population still without access to clean water one month later, her mission is of utmost urgency, as one of the ways in which “avoidable blindness” and other diseases such as Pink Eye occur is through exposure to contaminated water. SEE is sending supplies to help facilitate her Puerto Rico disaster relief campaign. We will have more information to share with you about her trip once she returns. Her unparalleled compassion plus her passion for helping others is truly an inspiration to all of us.

In the meantime, the American Optometric Association (AOA) has some great tips for people living in areas with high risk of wildfire:

  1. Stay indoors, if possible. Limit outdoor exposure, where smoke can affect your ocular surface. Make sure your car and home air conditioners are set to recirculate, so outside air isn’t drawn inward.
  2. Use palliative options, such as nightly ointments, daily artificial tears, or cold compresses.
  3. Ask your optometrist/ophthalmologist about a more aggressive option, if necessary. If you are concerned about smoke doing lasting damage to your vision, it may be appropriate to set up treatments with your doctor.
  4. Practice good hygiene. Contact lens patients may begin suffering discomfort or even slight inflammation, when there is smoke in the air. Make sure you are cleaning your contact lenses regularly!

The Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami, has the following tips for those of you living in a hurricane zone

  1. Wear safety eyewear while putting up shutters or plywood, especially when hammering nails into wood or concrete.
  2. Make sure your hammer head fits snugly and all of your tools are in good condition.
  3. If glass is breaking during the storm, put on protective eyewear.
  4. Always read label directions carefully before using cleaning fluids, chemicals and gases.
  5. Work in a well-ventilated area, and be sure spray nozzles point away from you and others. After using cleaning fluids or chemicals, wash your hands thoroughly.
  6. Insist that children wear safety goggles when they are present during storm preparation or clean-up.
  7. Avoid swimming in pools or other water attractions that may have become contaminated from storm water.
  8. Make sure you have enough eye medications, especially for conditions like glaucoma, dry eyes, infections, inflammations, and transplant rejection medication.
  9. Keep your eyeglasses in a safe place where you can easily find them.
  10. Keep sufficient supplies of contact lenses and their cleaning solutions.

Hurricane First Aid Eye Care Tips

  1. If sand, dust or other particles get into your eye, do not rub. Wash your eye out with purified water.
  2. Avoid using tap water in your eye after a hurricane, due to the fact that stagnant water may become contaminated.
  3. If debris hit the area around the eye, apply cold cloths for 15 minutes to reduce swelling. If swelling persists, go to the doctor as soon as possible.
  4. If a sharp object like a twig or nail enters your eye, do not pull it out. Put a loose bandage on the eye and do not apply pressure. Go to a hospital emergency room immediately.
  5. If chemicals, cleaning fluids or gasoline get into your eyes, gently wash the eyes with water for at least 10 minutes. Go to a doctor or emergency room immediately.In the meantime, stay safe! Your eyesight is a precious gift; be sure to protect it.


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