Superpowers for all

These were the words spoken recently by a young patient at the Illinois Eye Institute in response to trying a set of corrective lenses for the first time. While the power of precognition is not what optometrists are typically going for, it is not a tremendous stretch to say that for many children, suddenly clear sight feels like a super power. Where once the world and words in front of them were blurry, confusing, and headache inducing; now they are vivid and sensible.

Every morning, a bus full of students from a Chicagoland school arrives at the Princeton Vision Clinic where an ensemble of optometrists, opticians, optometry students, security guards, and AmeriCorps members await, ready to provide all of them with comprehensive eye exams. Children receive thorough, individual attention in order to combat their visual impediments and to diagnose any ocular health issues that the children may have. By the end of the field trip, most of the children leave having picked out their own new pairs of glasses. Several others may be referred for follow-up care. For the staff watching the kids walk out the door, the fun has just begun.

At IEI, the AmeriCorps members are responsible for helping to coordinate the follow-up care with the patients that need it. Many ocular conditions cannot be cured with glasses or contacts alone. They often require training, therapy, or even surgery. AmeriCorps members reach out over the phone to the parents of these patients to inform and educate them of their child’s situation. We urge them to seek follow-up care and to take advantage of the resources that Princeton Vision Clinic has to offer. However, these patients come from predominantly underserved neighborhoods and frequently lack transportation or means to get to our location for more care. Thus, we coordinate appointments with clinics around the city in order to make sure the patients can receive the care that they need.

Maybe someday, glasses will allow us all to see into the future, but for now, we’re just trying to make sure that every kid in Chicago can see what’s right in front of them.

This blog post was written by NHC Chicago 2017-18 member Tim Corwin.

Tim is a Vision Promoter at the Illinois Eye Institute at CPS Princeton School.