Saturday, February 24, 2018
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20171007 lions club eye photo

Adabelle DeLuna, 4, who attends pre-kindergarten classes at Bryan Elementary School, has her eyes checked by Tim Milam as fellow Mission Lions Club member Ron D’Andrea looks on Sept. 15. Progress Times photo by Joe Hinton

Imagine a machine that can cut the time of a task that once took two days down to about a half hour. That’s exactly what the Mission Lions Club has brought to area schools with a small camera-sized instrument that in five seconds can perform an eye exam.

The task is screening pre-kinder and kindergarten students for vision problems, and the results have demonstrated the importance of the screenings. The Mission Lions Club has used a special camera-like, hand-held screening device to perform over 1600 vision exams so far this school year, and they typically detect abnormalities in 20-25 percent of the children, requiring them to be referred for further examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist, said Mission Lions Club member Ron D’Andrea. The Lions Club vision screenings are performed at no cost to the families or the school district, and the device can detect many problems that would not have been caught using the traditional eye chart exam method.

The device can quickly analyze the eye and detect more than a half dozen abnormalities including astigmatism, myopia and amblyopia, the latter of which can lead to permanent vision loss if not detected between birth and the age of six.

On Friday, Sept. 15, Lions Club members D’Andrea and Tim Milam, both state certified to administer the exams using the Welch-Allyn “Spot” V100 analyzer, assisted school nurse Nancy Cardoza in examining the eyes of 119 pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students at Bryan Elementary School. The pair travels throughout the area where, by Nov. 17, they will have assisted 14 schools in the Mission Consolidated Independent School District and four Idea Academy schools conduct required eye exams on children under age six, the most difficult age group to test, Cardoza said.

This is the third year the Lions Club has assisted Cardoza and other schools with student eye exams. She said before the V100, it could take her two days to examine an average classroom of 25 to 30 kindergarten and pre-kindergarten-aged students.

Texas law requires students in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, first, third and fifth grades receive eye exams within the first 120 days of the school year’s start, said the nurse, a task that was once both burdensome and time consuming.

“Because we have to sit them down at the desk, tape up the eye chart then have them cover one eye, uncover the eye and then they’ll start crying because they can’t see and it’s just, “ Cardoza pauses, “they’re babies.”

“It eliminates the need for an eye chart. It’s all automated,” said Milam who administered exams to four year olds in teacher Nora Sanchez’s pre-kindergarten class Sept. 15 in about 20 minutes.

Using the new device makes the eye examinations easier and much faster. D’Andrea and Milam completed all 119 exams in four hours, which based on Cardoza’s formula of two days for 25 students, saved her about eight days of work, D’Andrea said.

With D’Andrea’s assistance, the children were lined up in chairs next to each other with Milam performing the exams – taking a quick reading of the student’s eyes – moving from one to the next in quick succession.

At a cost of $8,000 each, the V100 was made specifically for children. The exam is administered after first dimming room lights to dilate the pupils. Then the students look into the V100’s lens just like they would at a camera. The difference is when children look into the V100’s lens they see something similar to an illuminated, multi-colored, moving kaleidoscope with the sounds of birds chirping emanating from the device to help hold the child’s attention. The exam is over typically in 10 seconds or less. The results with the student’s names are displayed on a readout screen and can be saved onto a flash drive that is provided to the school nurse for their records.

D’Andrea said the Lions Club District 2-A3 purchased three V100s through grants from the Lions Club International Foundation and contributions from the 52 club chapters within the district that spans across South Texas. He said one unit is based in Mission, another in Donna and the third in Brownsville.

“The Lions Club has a decades-long tradition of helping underprivileged children obtain eye exams and glasses,” D’Andrea said.

Cardoza said another advantage to the V100 is it can better detect the eye abnormalities than a nurse’s visual inspection. The machine even presents corrective lens prescriptions. However, D’Andrea said the purpose of the screening is to determine if children need to be referred to an optometrist or ophthalmologist for a full eye exam.

We don’t diagnose the student,” Milam said.

In Mission the Lions Club works in conjunction with the Shah Eye Center where children who otherwise could not afford the eye exam are referred. D’Andrea said the center performs the eye exams at a discount with the Lions Club covering the cost.

“It’s a great help,” Cardoza said of the V100 and the Lions Club volunteers who administer the eye exams. “Because it’s very fast.”

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