Dr. Lori Ann Long, aka, Lori Bradley, leaves Nov. 2 for an eye care mission trip to Nicaragua. She is going with a group of eye physicians and support staff through an organization named VOSH, Volunteers of Optometry Serving Humanity. They will be there until Nov. 11.
The team flies into Managua, the country's capital, and then is bussed approximately four hours to Chinandega, known as the hottest city in Central America. The next day they will set up an eye clinic in a church that has no air conditioning which is adjacent to a refugee tent city.
'The refugees will be our patient base,” Long said. “Clinic days start at 7 a.m. and end after every doctor has seen at least 75 patients. Most of these refugees have never had access to any eye care. Imagine putting glasses on someone who is very nearsighted, which means they cannot see far, for the first time.”
Long, who has been on two previous mission trips, describes this as a miracle.
“Their faces light up like a Christmas tree with amazement and joy at being able to really see for the first time.”
All doctors are responsible for their own expenses including airfare, hotels, which may or may not have air conditioning in the rooms and may or may not have clean water for bathing, paying for their own translator, and fees to VOSH which contribute to the cost of the medical equipment necessary and the thousands of pairs of glasses they take on the trip.
“I have had a lot of financial support from friends and family to make this experience possible for me,” she said. “I would like to thank Leslie and Lenny Culicchia, Catherine Davenport, Miriam Dillon, Debbie and Jack Emerick, the Freese family, Laura Gilmore, Shari Groff, Rhonda Joodi, Diane and Kent Kleist, Lil Leffler, Deana and Butch Long, Grace Long, Doris Lucas, Gina Martin-Rodger, Patty Reynolds, Melissa Rovner, Micheline and Dr. Harris Silverman, Gerlinde Smith, Gillian St. George and Butch White, Marieanne and Erik Vogt, and Barb and Dr. Al Zanner.”
Long added that each doctor is allowed to bring one suitcase and they have to bring their own toilet paper, or use what the refugees use, which is newspaper. Also in Long's suitcase will be expired medications that she has been accumulating from her office.
“Expired meds are better than no meds,” she said.
She plans to leave all of her clothing with the refugees at the end of the mission, thus coming home with an empty suitcase.
“I may even leave the suitcase and just come home with a heart full of gratitude for this opportunity to give back,” she said.