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|Lions Clubs work to save sight around the world|
The Louisiana Lions Eye Foundation has helped everyone from the poorest people around the world to prime ministers in its mission to rid the world of treatable blindness.
On Tuesday, the Downtown Monroe Lions Club heard about some of the projects and programs the Eye Foundation offers.
The group also presented Chris Carlone, development director for the Eye Foundation, with a $1,000 donation.
The Eye Foundation has been housed in New Orleans since 1974, providing eye care services to thousands of indigent residents each year. Last year it helped roughly 20,000 adults and children receive eye care.
One of those children's life was saved because of an eye screening at his school, performed by Lions Club members last year.
The Lions Club CubSight screening program found that 15-month-old Brenden Maestri of Metairie had retinoblastoma, a form of eye cancer.
Brenden's day care one day announced the local Lions Club would provide free eye screening for the day care's children with parental approval.
Brenden's mother didn't think it was needed, but knew it wouldn't hurt, so she signed the consent forms.
The picture of Brenden's eyes was sent to the Lions Club screening office in Lafayette. The Lions Club screeners thought Brenden had a horrible case of lazy eye and suggested Brenden see an eye doctor.
The eye doctor found more than that. He found a rare cancerous tumor in Brenden's left eye. Most children who have this form of eye cancer lose their eyesight in that eye. If the tumor is near an optic nerve, it could lead to brain cancer.
The afternoon following Brenden's eye exam, his parents were on their way to St. Jude's Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
He has received numerous chemotherapy treatment, but doctors say he will keep his eyesight, and more importantly, avoid brain cancer.
"Not only did the Lions save his life, but they saved his eye, which is unheard of," Carlone said. "They saved his peripheral vision, and today they are patching the good eye to make the weak eye work a little harder, so they hope to save his central vision, too."
"Personally, I didn't have a thing to do with saving this little child's life, but can you only imagine how proud I am of being part of the program that saved his life," Carlone said. "I am so blessed. You guys get to do all the work, but I get to see the results of all that work."
The Eye Foundation concept started around 1927 after Helen Keller urged the Lions to become "knights of the blind."
Since that time, "the Lions have done more to support the visually impaired and to fight against the cause of blindness than any other organization in the world. The Lions also have spent more money than any nation in the world save for these United States," said Downtown Monroe Lions Club member David Burkett.
He said the local Lions Club has raised more than $2 million for the Eye Foundation and Louisiana Lions Camp, among other charities the Lions Clubs support.
The actual Eye Foundation was not established until 1974 in New Orleans after LSU Medical School approached several Lions Club members about the lack of eye care for indigent people.
"Now people from all over the world come into the doors of the Eye Foundation," Burkett said. "They have no money, no insurance, but they are welcome and they receive the best treatment in the world."
"People from all over the world who can afford to go anywhere they want walk into the doors of the Eye Foundation," Burkett added.
He said the Eye Foundation is to eye care what M.D. Anderson is to cancer treatment.
Carlone said laser eye surgery that is considered common today was developed by Dr. Herb Kaufman. He developed it with equipment Lions Clubs members provided.
"The research and research development has been a tremendous thing that Lions have done and many do not know about that," Carlone said.
West Monroe is home to the nearest eye clinic for the local region.
The Lions Clubs want to establish a clinic in every community throughout the state in the near future.
Over the last eight months, 10 new clinics have been established.
Some of the programs by the Lions Clubs include eye glass recycling, the low vision program and the CubSight screening program.
During the past four years, more than 230,000 eye glasses have been recycled to give to indigent people all over the world.
A Monroe optical lab recently agreed to help the Lions Clubs reduce the amount of time it takes to recycle a pair of glasses.
The low vision program aims to help people with incurable eye disease by improving their vision and quality of life.
The CubSight program serves children ages 1 to 5. Screeners take special pictures of children's eyes which are then analyzed by eye experts, who are looking for eye diseases "before it's too late," Carlone said.