Cold Lake Sun
Local optometrist joins international team in Jamaica, Costa Rica Doctor donates vacation time to help needy patients through Canadian Vision Care
Andrew Serba Cold Lake Sun
they can see everything. It’s kind of amazing to see how happy they are when that happens. Some of them are up to minus-20 prescriptions that they need. And typically we don’t even see that over here. It’s definitely very gratifying to be able to help them do that. Sometimes they start crying Dr. John Barkley right there in the chair that they can actually see now.” Barkley said that a person not In total, the two teams he worked with wearing a minus-20 prescription would saw almost 1,850 patients, prescribing have vision four to five times worse than over 790 pairs of glasses and referring 108 the Canadian National Institute for the people for surgeries. Blind’s definition of legally blind. “We check the patients for glasses and if “At best, this patient would have trouthey need any type of medication we take ble counting fingers on an open hand big bags of medication – we take hockey one to two feet away,” he said. “After this bags full of (eye drops) – to hand out,” he distance, vision would be unimaginasaid. bly blurry. The only clear vision he would Patients diagnosed with glaucoma need have would be within five centimetres to take eye drops every day for the rest of from his eyes.” their lives, Barkley explained. And mediLast year, Barkley went on a similar trip cation can cost as much as $70 a bottle. to one country and said this year he was “If we had any patients previously diagfortunate to be able to do the two trips nosed with glaucoma or that we diagback to back. He said he hopes to connosed ourselves, we would give them tinue working abroad, spending at least handfuls of medication,” he said. one week overseas each year for the foreThe team also came across many seeable future. patients with cataracts, strabismus – a “The patients are very appreciative that condition in which the two eyes are not we are there,” he said. aligned in the same direction – and pre“And you definitely bring a lot back. scribed sets of glasses at strengths not You learn a lot and you se a lot of things often seen in Canada. that you might not typically see here. The “There’s some patients that have never other important thing is that you learn had glasses their entire life,” Barkley said. that there are people out there who need “And they’re some of the highest prescriphelp and it’s nice to be able to use your tions I’ve ever seen. And then instantly time to help them.”
“There’s some patients that have never had glasses their entire life, and they’re some of the highest prescriptions I’ve ever seen. And then instantly they can see everything.”
A Cold Lake optometrist recently used his vacation time to join an international team of health care providers helping needy patients care for their eyes. “I do only get so much vacation time a year,” noted Dr. John Barkley of Cold Lake Eye Care. “But I’m fortunate to be able to do this. It’s a great thing to have a chance to help people, but we also get to be immersed in the culture and stay with the locals. We get to experience how they live in different countries, so it’s a win-win situation.” Canadian Vision Care is an Albertabased non-profit organization that donates glasses and medication to needy people abroad. But they need optometrists to conduct eye exams and to prescribe the glasses. And that’s where people like Barkley come in: They donate their time and make it all happen. The non-profit works with Lions Clubs around the world to billet volunteer doctors and to screen the local population to find people who need eye care, but can’t afford it. In late February and early March, Barkley spent one week working in a number of communities in Jamaica before spending a second week doing the same in San Isidro, Costa Rica.
SUPPLIED PHOTO Dr. John Barkley travelled to Jamaica and Costa Rica with a team of health care providers to help people who needed glasses, but could not afford them. The team saw almost 1,850 patients in two weeks.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
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Published on May 17, 2011