Barilee Abueh, The Founder of Sight Rescue Initiative Connects Eye Care and Chronic Disease Prevention and Management
Tell us about Sight Rescue
Sight Rescue Foundation is a non-profit organization that will serve the developing countries as a provider of primary eye care, education and advocacy for the prevention of avoidable blindness. Our mission is to help eliminate preventable blindness and promote the quality of life in developing countries.
Sight Rescue Initiative has five goals and we try as much as possible to achieve these goals in every project. The goals include vision screening to detect poor vision or risk factors that interfere with vision and normal visual development. We screen for cataract and also offer free cataract surgeries, screen for Glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, macula degeneration and we provide proper referrals, counselling and medication when needed.
The second goal is the prevention of blindness and impaired vision due to uncorrected refractive error through the provision of free refraction and glasses for school children and free reading glasses for presbyopes (An age related condition that makes it difficult for you to read very close).
The third goal is the treatment of ocular medication, free treatment would be prescribed for minor ocular conditions such as allergies, vernal, atopic and infectious conjunctivitis, dry eye and other ocular surface disorders.
The fourth goal is to provide low vision and rehabilitative care.
The fifth goal is to promote ocular health awareness through education and also promote continuity by training focus persons in the community to serve as sight rescue advocates, recognize common eye illnesses after the completion of the project and give appropriate referrals.
What inspired you to start Sight Rescue?
A series of events that occurred while I did my externships and my love for medical outreaches which I did a lot while at the University inspired me to start Sight Rescue Initiative. During the summer holidays while in University, I did my clinical attachments with eye hospitals in Nigeria. I have had/seen patients that had worsening ocular conditions due to the fact they couldn’t afford their medication or buy their spectacle and lenses. I decided to start small outreaches in churches and small communities in Nigeria. I started this in my fourth year in the University. I remember I would save some money and invite my senior colleagues to help out with these outreaches and we would provide free vision screening and medication for these people and give referrals to the eye hospital where I did my externship and pay for the bills too.
It was not until 2015 I decided it was time to use my youthful energy to do something good for my community with my career. That was how I started Sight Rescue Initiative. We launched with our first project on the 29th August 2015 at the Owutu community, Ikorodu, Lagos, Nigeria. Over 130 people were screened by our SRI Doctors and we achieved all of our sight rescue goals including booking 5 patients for free cataract surgeries. We also had another project: the Ajao estate community project on the 6th September 2015 and we achieved all of our SRI goals with a major focus on the kids within the community.
What is the connection between eye problems and chronic diseases?
The eye, with a direct connection to the brain, is made up of muscles, nerves and blood vessels. A disease that compromises these systems in any part of the body can affect those components of the visual system as well. The eye is the only place on the body that provides a non-invasive view of blood vessels and nerves and is often referred to as the window of the body.
There are ocular manifestations of so many chronic diseases. Eye findings are usually the first indication of underlying chronic disease leading to a diagnosis and also chronic diseases if not properly managed can lead to eye problems. For example, the first signs of hypertension are often seen in the eye where blood vessels are clearly visible. Complications of hypertension can also cause Central retinal vein occlusion in the eye. Diabetes is another example of eye care’s integral part in the identification and monitoring of chronic disease. Retinal blood vessel changes indicate damage due to the lack of adequate control of blood sugar levels and it can cause complications resulting in visual loss.
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis accounts for approximately 80 percent of cases of uveitis in children. Delay in diagnosis can lead to cataracts, glaucoma, and blindness. In some cases, ocular disease may indicate reactivation of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus that was thought to be in remission. The list goes on and on.
What can people do to prevent the eye conditions associated with chronic diseases?
You can visit your eye doctor regularly as timely detection and treatment can substantially reduce the incidence of eye problems and also proper management of existing chronic disease can also aid vision.
Where can we connect with you online?
You can connect with us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sightrescueinitiative
Website: www.sightrescueinitiative.org (Still under construction)