Helping out at the Special Olympics

As Fatima recently wrote, every year we’re required to help out at least once at a vision screening. It’s really up to us which one we want to do, but I personally enjoy getting things out of the way before my schedule gets too crammed. So for my third year, I decided to participate at the Special Olympics’ Opening Eyes vision screening, sponsored by the Lions Club. The event took place over two days in Normal, Ill., about two hours from Chicago. Those of us who stayed both days were provided with a hotel room, as well as a delicious dinner at the end of the first day. Some people just participated on just the second day; everyone received a T-shirt and a box lunch.

The cool thing about doing a vision screening is that you get to work alongside faculty members, as well as residents that you may not have had a chance to work with, such as Drs. GoodfellowTrachimowitzAllisonBlock and Gabriel, and even some of the opticians from the IEI’s Eyewear Center. Dr. Allison brought her lovely little daughter along to help out as well. Together, we screened about 240 athletes.

Dr. Goodfellow doing retinoscopy.

Dr. Goodfellow doing retinoscopy

After an athlete completes the screening, we determine their visual needs, and they’re provided with free glasses/sports goggles if they need them. If not, they still get to select an awesome Plano Sunwear of their choice. Liberty Sport donated the sports goggles, Santinelli was there to do edging and grinding lenses so that athletes received their glasses in a timely manner, Essilor donated most of the lenses and Safilo donated the frames.

Dr. T working on a patient

Dr. T working doing direct ophthalmoscopy

For the most part, I was in charge of using the hand-held auto-refractor, but when it got really busy, I jumped around and did slit lamp, as well as near visual acuities. It might sound like repetitive work at first, but this is a great way to develop certain clinical skills and practice techniques, as well as become familiar with hand-held machines that we might otherwise never get a chance to practice on. Additionally, during downtime at some stations, like cover test, faculty members gave us helpful tips about how to perform an accurate test. I even learned about the thought behind the LEA symbols thanks to Dr. Block.

Hand-held slit lamp

Working on the hand-held slit lamp

It felt great to have ICO faculty and students and their family members join the Lion’s Club to help out for this awesome cause. I got to meet some amazing athletes, some of whom won gold medals in multiple events.

This athlete won gold in three events!

It’s really tough to try to fit more events in our schedule, but it’s worth it: You feel more confident about the skills you’ve practiced, it feels great being able to help others, and it’s fun! We got to use our pediatrics kit that we bought from COVD with the kids. The light-up fixation target was a lifesaver for some of the more difficult patients with a short attention spans.

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Light-up fixation target

This is the second Opening Eyes screening I’ve done. At my first one last year, one adorable athlete read the LEA symbols back as “a square, a circle, a house, and and ‘I love you,'” because once of the shapes looks like a heart. Each time we pointed at that shape, he would say “I love you.” It’s stories like these that gives me the warm fuzzy feeling that we all want at the end of a long day.


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