Summer in Jamaica 2019
By Dr. Marc Moison
Our very first eye care mission to rural parts of Jamaica has now finished and what a rewarding experience it was.
Driving on the opposite side of the road compared to what we do here in Canada sure had its own level of stress, but besides one very close call in a round-about, I made out fine.
We made our way to Spanish Town, the original capital of Jamaica, and there we were welcomed by the Lion’s Club, Norma and her group of volunteers. We spent the first day in high thirty-degree weather in a non-air conditioned, metal-roofed hall and managed to perform one hundred eye exams! The University of Waterloo School of Optometry interns — Jess, Taylor, Kevin, Steph and Kopika — were excellent students and our own two kiddos were definitely troopers – spending a solid ten hours helping without complaining! Although getting lunch was a bit challenging, the day went smoothly and we diagnosed and cared for so many glaucoma, cataracts and sun-related growths that we genuinely made a difference in people’s lives. The following few days were essentially the same.
Thanks to the Fi Wi Place Inn for our accommodations, which despite the roosters that crow all day long rather than just at sunrise like the cartoons depict, we had our first air-conditioned space of the trip.
The highlight, of course, were the people we saw. They too (admitted that this year was hotter than normal) endured the waiting times patiently and heat as we taught our interns the management of eye disease they hadn’t seen so far in their training. In total, we helped no less than 25 newly diagnosed glaucoma patients, all of whom would eventually have lost their vision without intervention. Countless cataract surgical referrals were made, and even one fresh retinal detachment was taken care of. Glasses (sun, reading and bifocals) were prescribed to essentially everyone and the gratitude shown was as thick as the heat!
Despite potential traffic collisions, one friendly encounter with a traffic police officer, not always getting fed and surreal heat on 10-12 hour days, this was probably the most rewarding experience (except marrying Anisa of course!) of my life. We plan on making this eye care mission to Jamaica a consistent to-do in the years to come.
Marc and Anisa