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Lions conduct Eye Care outreach in Malaeloa

Christmas came early this year for the residents of Malaeloa in the western district of Tutuila, when on December 8, the village was the site of the latest Lions Club Eye Care outreach project.

The signature bright gold vests of the Lions could be seen at the Tuitasi Guest Fale early Saturday morning ,and when the last person was seen, 140 people had been given vision screening and eye examinations as well as being tested for their blood sugar and blood pressure levels.

Working in collaboration with the Department of Health, and with the assistance of the South Pacific Academy LEO Club (the Lions youth organization) the second small village outreach for this Lion year under president Isabel Hudson was a resounding success. The first small village outreach took place in Fagasa in September.

During each of these clinics, the Lions who have been trained to conduct vision screening tested for long and short sightedness and visual acuity. LBJ resident ophthalmologist Dr.Oo conducted specialized eye exams, checking for signs of disease and other problems.

Members of the LEO club of South Pacific Academy were on hand to dispense reading glasses and sunglasses. Close to 200 pairs of glasses were given free of charge to those who needed them.

The first stop for those who took advantage of the clinic was the DOH station, where, under the guidance of Tele Hill, RN, five DOH staff members spent their Saturday working with the Lions to test blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure) are two Non-Communicable Diseases which have been the subject of much discussion of late, and the good news is that both can be detected and monitored with this kind of screening. High blood pressure (hypertension) is sometimes referred to as the “silent killer” because it exhibits few symptoms, but can lead to stroke and instant death.

Diabetes has numerous associated health problems, including the destruction of the retina, which leads to irreversible blindness. According to Dr. Oo, this blindness—diabetic retinopathy— is completely preventable by following a proper diet and exercise program, regular checkups and compliance with a program of prescribed medicine. But the first and most important steps are regular screening and eye exams.

Following the DOH screening, residents were counseled in terms of their test results, and given suggestions and recommendations to improve their health and bring their stats to healthy levels. Exercise regimes, diet counseling and life style changes were recommended by DOH staff members, with special attention given to each person’s needs, according to head nurse Hill.

Also on hand to assist the Lions were Dr. Fiona Traill and Dr. Akosita Lesuma from LBJ Primary Care clinic, who joined the Lions outreach on Saturday to counsel patients who required follow-up care. They further explained the importance of nutrition, regular exercise and check-ups, making follow up appointments where needed.

The clinic was also the site of a special visit by the Miss South Pacific Pageant contestants. Hosted by Miss American Samoa, Arielle Tuilefano, whose home village is Malaeloa, the contestants, along with their chaperones, were each given an eye exam and  sunglasses to protect their eyes.

In all, some 140 patients were tested, screened and counseled. The eldest person seen was over 80 years, the youngest just nine years. 

Dr. Oo reported that one person was found to need urgent surgery, several were found with cataracts needing follow up care, and many more far-sighted people than usual were seen. Fortunately, the Lions had ‘negative power’ reading glasses on hand for these cases. All glasses were dispensed free of charge, right alongside Lion smiles and alofa.