MD 49 Vision Screening

In 1996, the Alaska Lions joined Dr. Robert Arnold and Orthopedist M.Diane Armitage in their “Mountain of a Project” to eliminate Amblyopia (lazy eye) from Alaska. The process began with vision screenings, continued with a follow-up eye exam by a professional, and finally treatment by the specialist to correct the problem. The Lions have continued with this mission participating in health fairs, doing elementary school screenings, screening at the State Fairs, screenings at crab festivals and just about anywhere we can find a spare room to set up.

The Lions of our Multiple District have increased the number of screening each year, from 7,000 screened in 2010 to 20,542 in 2018. Per capita, the Lions of MD49 screen more than any other group in the world.

We have many stories to tell of our screenings.

About the child that went from being the class troublemaker, the class clown, the joker in kindergarten to the class valedictorian as a senior because the Lions found that he couldn’t see his own feet to tie his shoes let alone see the blackboard.

Young child getting a sight screen for vision at Lions Sight Committee.

Kodiak Lions Vision Screening.

Children in Alaska getting a vision screening.

Sleeping Lady Lions at Aurora Elementary School.

Spenard Lion John directing traffic at busy vision screening.

Spenard Lion John directing traffic at busy vision screening.

Mendenhall Flying Lion at the Rotary Safety Expo vision screening.

Mendenhall Flying Lion at the Rotary Safey Expo Vision Screening.

About the school nurse that noted a drastic change in a child’s vision results from when the Lions screened her the previous year. The little girl was diagnosed with a brain tumor that would have caused her to lose her sight and possibly her life.

About the little girl in Juneau that needed eye surgery to prevent total vision loss.

About the mother that came up to the team at a recent health fair to thank the Lions for finding her son’s lazy eye early enough for it to be cured. And because of that they found that the boy’s baby brother also had correctable eye problems.

About a certain daughter of a notable politician that was shown to be cross-eyed by a screener at the State Fair vision trailer.

Thank you to the Multiple District 49 Lions clubs for giving their time and support of our vision project. Thank you to all of the individuals who volunteers and helps us making this year another banner year for vision screening.

Screening Results

Three vision screeners went to Rogers Park Elementary to do student vision screening in September 2019: Dr. Arnold’s wife Koni, IPP Connie Heyworth from the Anchorage Lions and Esther West from Benton Bay Lions. They screened 55 kindergartners that day with five referrals. A referral means that a possible defect was found in a child’s vision and the child has been referred for additional testing. The Lions don’t often get any recognition for what they do. All screeners need is to know that when we have a tough result that the child is taken care of. In this case, we know this child will be okay.

The vision screening team received this note from one of the referred children’s mothers:

My kindergartner was tested by the Lions club mobile eye exam unit at an Anchorage elementary in September. From your exam you sent home a paper notifying me to have him see an eye doctor. Upon your notice, I did take my son in and learned he has a significant deficit. He has now been fitted for glasses and is under monitoring. My son’s vision deficit is so significant that the doctor discussed that at this time his right eye is being lazy and we can not correct it to 20/20, but by intervention and monitoring the eye will begin to work and in time we might be able to get to 20/20 vision.

The shocking piece of this is, we had no idea. My husband and I were clueless that he could not see. I almost started laughing during the exam at the clinic when they showed a one inch figure and asked him to identify it with his weak eye and my son responded, “I do not know Korean letters.” The image was a horse. Of course, at the point it was clear to me that he was pretty much blind in his right eye.

I want to say thank you and express my gratitude for the people who raised money to build and furnish a mobile eye exam unit, organize its activities around the city and volunteer their time to test kids, my kids, eyes. Without your efforts, I believe my kid would have fallen behind in school, developed low self esteem and lack of desire to attend school, and would continue to miss out on seeing. Thank you. Thank you to all who participated and donated to this. I feel a deep gratitude and blessing that others cared enough to do all this and impact my son so profoundly. Without your efforts, we could have continued to miss that he is visually impaired. Your intervention has impacted my son in ways we will not know. My husband and I are grateful.

With my deepest gratitude, warmly,

An Anchorage Mother