Texas OD finds huge need for eye care in KenyaNovember 25, 2013
Texas practitioner Vanessa Ransom Anderson, O.D., traveled to the other side of the globe this past January to deliver eye care to those in great need.
As part of a multifaceted team from a church in her hometown of Bloomfield, N.M., Dr. Ransom Anderson was asked to go because the local missionaries found the need for eye care in Kenya to be huge.
Her husband, David, accompanied her as well and served as an assistant/ optician/ counselor/ porter/ whatever else was needed.
The rest of the team focused primarily on construction and built 10 single-family homes, as well as furnished single-family water filtration systems.
“This was my first trip to Kenya, and by far the largest clinic I have ever done,” said Dr. Ransom Anderson.
The clinic saw more than 900 patients in six days. The Lions Club donated 500 pairs of refurbished glasses in various prescriptions, and the volunteers purchased 500 pairs of non-prescription sunglasses and 700 pairs of over-the-counter readers from Restoring Vision, a non-profit organization that provides low-cost eyewear to humanitarian missions.
Nearly every day she was on the mission, Dr. Ransom Anderson said she “encountered dozens of people with vision so bad that they literally can only see light and some movement. The causes for their vision loss vary—severe cataracts, retinal detachments, eye trauma and end-stage glaucoma.”
“We tried our best to educate about the need for UV protection—especially to our younger patients,” she said. “After the first day, I gave every kid I saw a pair of sunglasses and instructions about wearing them in the sun. With no access to sterile surgical treatments for these populations, education and prevention really is the key for future generations in the region where we were working.”
Dr. Ransom Anderson said preparation is key for optometrists considering similar mission work.
“I was fortunate to be part of a team where Dave and I were the only ‘newbies,’” she said. “The entire rest of the group had taken this trip before and were prepared mentally and emotionally for what we would encounter. That was very helpful, as they were all able to walk Dave and I through some of what we could expect before we got there. Angie Baker was also able to give me some really important pointers and advice as I prepared. After her experience on the previous trip (she actually had to tie her phoropter to tree branches), she told me she thought a portable stand for the phoropter would be very helpful.”
Dr. Ransom Anderson said she would also definitely recommend a large supply of artificial tears and small bottles of baby shampoo and Vaseline.
“One thing that we didn’t prepare well for was the need for general hygiene education with the Kenyan nationals. After the first day of eye clinics, we did make a stop at the Yakomart (Kenya’s version of Wal-Mart) and purchase a small bottle of baby shampoo and a container of Vaseline—both of which were miraculously on the shelf at the Yakomart!” she said. “We used both of these items as visual aids to educate the locals about inexpensive hygiene for the eyes as well as inexpensive dry eye treatments.”
Despite all the care the volunteers provided, they couldn’t help everyone.
“We turned away many at the end, which was very hard for me to do,” said Dr. Ransom Anderson. “I ended the day in tears as the weight of it all hit me like a ton of bricks.”
As Dr. Ransom Anderson recounted in one of her blog posts while on the mission, “I am still trying my best to live a hakuna matata life, while also keeping my sense of humor. I saw things today that frustrated me (mostly because they would be so easy to remedy in the U.S., but impossible to fix here). I was also able to witness smiles of joy and elation as people were able to see again. There was good with the bad.”
To read more about Dr. Ransom Anderson’s volunteer work, visit her blog at