A mother and daughter duo, Dr. Shawna Heddinghaus of Fireside Eye Care in Benld and her 13 year old daughter Lily, recently travelled to Cap-Haitien, Haiti for a week long medical mission trip.
A team of five volunteers and four doctors supporting Optometry Giving Sight and VOSH PA travelled with their portable instruments and performed 1,668 eye exams in five days. The entire country of Haiti with a population of over 10 million only has three full time practicing optometrists. As you can imagine the team was greeted by long lines of patients each morning as they set up their make-shift clinics.
The people of Haiti all nearly suffer from itchy, dry eyes because of the intense dust, wind and sun exposure. All of the team’s supplies of artificial tears, allergy drops, and sunglasses were given out through the week. They dispensed 1000’s of eyeglasses to patients who have never had the chance to see life clearly.
Simply providing improved vision will allow many Haitians to return to productive lives in support of their families or allow children to keep up with their classmates in school. The team also referred over 175 people for cataract, glaucoma and diabetic eye surgeries. There is only one surgery center in Cap Hatien that is supported by volunteer surgeons.
Lily, a seventh grader at St. Boniface School in Edwardsville, took an interest in this type of mission work and spent her days off school training in her mother’s office for six months. She learned how to check vision, eye pressures and instill eye drops. Although the days were extremely long, she particularly enjoyed checking the children’s eyes and spent time at the end of each day playing and singing with the Haitian children.
Dr. Shawna Heddinghaus is a Board Certified Optometrist and a Diplomate of the American Board of Optometry. Her memberships include the American Optometric Association, Illinois Optometric Association, and Vision Source. Dr. Heddinghaus has received the Coal Country Chamber of Commerce’s Business of the Year Award and Macoupin County Outstanding Individual of the Year Award. She has been a Director and Vice-President of the Partnership for Educational Excellence and has served as a Past-President and Secretary for the Gillespie/Benld Rotary.
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