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Mission trip to the Dominican Republic ----- Preparation and Anticipation | Long Island Eye Doctor

Dr. Joel Kestenbaum

On October 9, 2014 ten doctors and approximately twenty ancillary personnel from the United States and Canada were selected to participate in a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. The doctors were selected from over 750 applicants and I was fortunate to be one of them.

This is my first mission trip and I’m very excited to be providing vision care to those in need.  We will be leaving on January 18, 2015 and are expected to help over 5000 people in four solid workdays.  Preparation and anticipation has been very exciting for me as I’ve never done a trip like this before.  My team has had video-conferences as well as many emails back-and-forth discussing the logistics.  My wife has gone shopping to get me power bars, stomach medications, suntan lotion and bug spray.  I’ve had to get injections for typhoid and hepatitis and we were told to take pills to prevent malaria.  It was highly suggested that we watch what we eat and especially what we drink.  “Don’t drink the water”.   But the excitement of helping all these people who have no access to healthcare or eye care is far greater than the excitement and anxiety that I personally am experiencing.

TLC laser centers along with the Pujols Family Foundation are sponsoring this trip to the Dominican Republic.  Marchon Eyewear and other eye glass frame vendors have donated, and we have access to, over 6500 pair of prescription eyeglasses which we are bringing with us.  This includes sunglasses for those that do not need a prescription.  VOSH International (Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity) is helping to supply the doctors with portable examination equipment.  Many Dominican volunteers are preparing to help in many ways…….translators, transportation, security guards, runners, and coordinators.   Our volunteer team will be examining children and adults who have never seen an eye doctor and many who have vision difficulties hindering their everyday lives.  We are expecting to see some people whose vision is so deteriorated that we will not even be able to help them.  This I know will be very disheartening as I am a perfectionist by nature.  If I can’t fix it, I usually can find someone who can.  Unfortunately in this environment, that someone who can, may not exist……..very sad.

These people live in very poor towns called bateys. Many of these bateys may only have one toilet in the church for the whole town.  These people are very poor but are also very proud.   We were told that they will wear their Sunday best “just to see the doctor”.  We were told, and I have seen it before in other eye care settings, that the smile on their faces will tell the whole story about the people who came to help.  I am so proud to be one of those people.

More to follow as I embark on a mission trip to enhance the lives of the Dominican people……..  I want to thank all of my friends, family, colleagues and patients for all their support and encouragement.

To follow our journey, please “like” Optix Family Eyecare and TLC Laser Centers on Facebook.

Dr. Joel Kestenbaum

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