Lions Club extends outreach to Manu'a

Dr. Ernest Oo (left), who is also a Lions member, led the team of three physicians to Tau, Manu'a. [photo TLH]

The islands of Manu'a sit just northeast of Tutuila and Aunu'u, a short 30 minute plane ride across the blue Pacific chanel that separates the island groups of American Samoa. Nearly 1,000 residents of  the territory claim Ta'u as their home, and it is there the Lions Club of Pago Pago flew recently in service to others.

It was a “Project Eye Care” outreach that had been in the works for some time. Lion President Jacinta Brown said when she began her term as president that she was determined to make this happen. More than two years ago, Lions had laid out plans, purchased tickets and chartered the plane. But the inevitable delays caused by weather, mechanical issues and everything ascribable to "Murphy's Law in the Pacific" (including a tsunami) occurred in the meantime.

With patience and persistence, however, the spirit of Lionism--service to others--prevailed, and this year, the Lions Club fulfilled a longstanding determination to serve the underserved residents of  Manu'a.

Along with  Lion president Cinta Brown, 1st vice president (now president-elect) Isabel Hudson, charter president Mike Sala, immediate past president and zone chair Peter Nomura, past presidents Lor Baul and this  writer, LBJ eye clinic staff, DOH nursing staff and Lion director Fiu Johnny Saelua, the members of the club flew out to Ta'u on St. Patrick's Day weekend to bring much needed vision screening, glasses (and maybe the luck of the Irish) along with them.

LBJ ophthalmologist and long time Lions Club volunteer and board member,  Dr. Ernest Oo led the team of three physicians, which included Dr. Charles Weingarten, an Ear Nose and Throat specialist who regularly visits the territory from his busy practice in Chicago, and Dr. Lucy Goh, a pediatriation who has joined the LBJ staff for two years.

Dr. Goh said she was "absolutely delighted" to be a member of the team, and would go back again if given the chance. Dr. Weingarten echoed the sentiment.

Several Ta'u residents offered their homes and kitchen facilities to the Club; the Lions Club was happy to compensate them for their time and effort.

"It is,after all, part of our fundraising-- to be able to help others in all the ways we can" said the Lion president.

The clinic was able to offer vision screening, auditory screening, general pediatric checkups, along with eye, ears, nose and throat (ENT) checkups. Before leaving Ta'u, the Lions dispensed new reading glasses and sunglasses to over 100 residents, while also referring 12 cases for follow-up  treatment  to LBJ Tropical Medical Center.

According to Dr. Oo, 120 total eye exams were given, with 94 pairs of glasses, including 64 prescription eye glasses (some individuals with unusual eye problems received more than one pair). Eight cataract cases were detected, and six cases of diabetic retinopathy.

It should be noted that diabetes, along with other Non-Communicable diseases, has been called "epidemic" by leading health care professionals in the territory. Diabetic retinopathy is  the leading cause of blindness in the Pacific, and is thoroughly preventable, if caught in time. With careful diet, exercise, and in some cases medication, no one ever need go blind from diabetes.

One of the first lines of defense in the fight against diabetic retinopathy is the eye exam, which is what Dr. Oo and the Lions were there for. Also part of the team were LBJ Eye Clinic nursing and administration staff, Blanche Uitu, Tuaotala Boat, and Fatima Lafaele. From the ASG Department of Health, Fa'afetai Yandall joined the group.

In addition to the eye exams, some 30 ENT cases were seen, and 24 pediatric cases were examined.  Upon returning to Tutuila, the Lions Club of Pago Pago began planning their next community outreach. Gratitude was expressed to the many residents of Ta’u who assisted the Lions, and to Inter-Island Airways, including pilots Harry Hopkinson and Joey Misaalefua for their kind assistance.


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