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Bascom Palmer Eye Institute

Gulf Coast Reflection, October 1, 2005

We awoke early to a line outside our door, and were able to set up relatively quickly to start the day. The Lafayette Cajundome is home to so many evacuees trying to move on with their lives while coping with the devastation they have endured in losing their houses and personal belongings. Spirits are actually quite high, though, and people seem glad to have a break from the monotony of their day and are so appreciative of all the help we have offered. The most common need is replacing lost glasses and contact lenses, and our supply was dwindling somewhat so that we went out and bought some over the counter readers to give out the following days. We also refilled some glaucoma medications and screened for diabetic retinopathy.

We saw more than 75 patients – a fair number considering there are only three Bascom Palmer employees in a relatively small space. The van is amazing and is equipped with anything and everything we need to provide excellent eye care in a mobile setting. Patients enjoy the air conditioning just as much as we do. Even some residents from the community stopped by for an eye exam! Overall, the day was challenging and fulfilling. We stayed busy and worked very well together. It was rewarding to see the patients later wearing the glasses we had given them.

During the day while we were seeing patients, Mike Kelley traveled to the Port Charles area to assess the damage and need for medical assistance. Port Charles is essentially empty, with widespread damage to virtually every building. One of the more poignant sights was that of people sifting through the rubble of their homes picking up picture frames and mementos. There are no shelters in the area due to the widespread damage.

Some of the Cajundome residents are four-time evacuees, and the shelter is scheduled to be open only 6 more weeks. One gentleman’s home in Mississippi was destroyed when an electrical transformer fell on it and caught fire. He was then evacuated to Lafayette. Lafayette then evacuated to Shreveport when Hurricane Rita came through. Now they have closed the Shreveport shelters and sent the evacuees back to Lafayette. The $2400 he received in rental assistance went to pay for an apartment in Port Charles that was destroyed by Rita, and his insurance check won’t come until January. He has no place to live other than shelters for the foreseeable future, and no money, as he is permanently disabled. More than 100,000 people still remain in shelters. The relief effort is impressive, but there is still much to be done.

Kathryn D. Nelson, O.D.

Staff Optometrist
knelson@med.miami.edu