NH optometrist aided after Hurricane Irene damage

November 16, 2011

With the help of Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief, one New Hampshire practitioner is recovering from damage sustained during Hurricane Irene in August.

“A lot has happened in the last six weeks,” said Richard Stegen, O.D., of North Country Eye Care Associates in West Lebanon, N.H.

Dr. Stegen received a call from his landlord on Aug. 28 telling him not to worry about coming to the office the next day as it was now “under water.”

“I was able to get to the office the next day to find that there had been slightly over a foot and a half of water in the office that had by then receded,” Dr. Stegen said. “I was not allowed into the structure until the next day, when I found that there was significant, but apparently no structural, damage.” 

Dr. Stegen had recently purchased the optometry portion of the business and had switched to electronic health records (EHRs).

“So the first things I checked were the computers, which were, not surprisingly, destroyed. Fortunately, all my data was backed up. Once power could be restored a week later, I found that my chairs, stands and electrical tables were all destroyed, but fortunately my diagnostic instruments were largely undamaged. All office furniture and fixtures needed to be disposed of and about 5 percent of our paper charts (not yet converted to the EHR database) were beyond recovery.”

A large portion of drywall needed to be removed, and the carpet was also destroyed. The duct work and ceiling tiles need to be replaced.

“At this time, the drywall has been replaced, but the ducts, ceiling and carpet are still in the process of being replaced,” said Dr. Stegen. “We hope to be back in the office by mid-November. I have had the good fortune to have a longtime friend, a local optician, who offered the use of a lane in her optical shop. I have been able to see patients on a limited basis since mid-September. I have had to connect to my home office computer database to enter patient data, which is not efficient, but much better than transcribing paper charts daily.”

“While this disaster has been a large setback for my practice in terms of business, I consider myself very lucky that my home was undamaged,” he said. “Unfortunately many people in this area were not so lucky. We see some light at the end of the tunnel, finally.”

Dr. Stegen received a grant from Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief, administered by Optometry Cares®.

The fund is ready to assist optometrists whose practices and/or homes are damaged by natural disasters.

Several other AOA members have recently requested assistance after flooding in North Dakota.

To ensure that funds are available for all who need assistance, AOA members are encouraged to make a donation to Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief.

Contributions are deductible to the fullest extent of the law, as no goods or services are furnished by the Optometry Cares® – The AOA Foundation, a 501(c) (3) organization, in exchange for the gift to Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief.

To contribute, simply mail a check to Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief, 243 N. Lindbergh Blvd., First Floor, St. Louis, MO 63141.

Donations may also be made online at www.aoafoundation.org.

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