Bowling Green, Ky. – When 6-year-old Kylan and his father, Eugene, came to the Remote Area Medical’s Disaster Response Clinic in Bowling Green, Ky., his dad said the clinic came at the perfect time.
Kylan sat in the exam chair, his hood pulled down over his face. His mask covered his mouth and chin, with only his eyes peered through. However, when he walked up to the table of frames, even his mask couldn’t hold back the smile on his face.
“We’re just very grateful,” Eugene, 26, said. “It seems like God comes right on time, as you can say. We were just trying to get glasses for him that were going to cost $200 through our insurance that we thought would be free.”
Eugene said Kylan breaks his glasses often – something Optician Kim Kazsuk, a volunteer at the Bowling Green clinic, said happens all too often.
“I see that a lot,” she said. “Kids break their glasses easily. Some of the programs, like the Medicaid programs, those frames are so cheap. They break at nothing. I’ve had one kid that I’d say I’ve replaced his frames five times in just a couple months.”
Eugene said because of such specifics with Kylan’s glasses, the family was going to have to pay extra each time his frames broke. He said Kylan also had astigmatisms.
Eugene said it could be hard watching his son try to keep the broken glasses on.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” he said. “We’re going to have to go home and put on glasses with just one side on it so he can see good. When those come in the mail, he’s going to be very excited. It’s going to be good to see.”
RAM was able to get Kylan fitted for frames, but because of his specialized prescription, the glasses would be mailed to the family.
In all, 27 children were helped at the Bowling Green Disaster Response Clinic. That effort was funded in part by a special donation from Violet Sees – a foundation that helps connect children and families with resources for vision.
Violet Sees was founded after Violet was born completely blind with “total bilateral congenital cataracts,” meaning her birth lenses were completely blocked. Violet was able to get surgery, but the family wanted to give back to those that don’t have the medical infrastructure or resources to diagnose, treat and rehabilitate children like Violet.
“That’s amazing,” Eugene said. “For someone that’s going through something like that themselves and then put themselves out to help others – they didn’t have to do that. That’s very special. It takes a lot for a person to go through something, and not only to worry about themselves, but worry about others, as well. We’re very gracious of them. It’s definitely God’s gift.”
Through that effort, 16 percent of the patients seen in Bowling Green were children. For the volunteer optician, that was something good to witness.
“Again, it’s things we take for granted,” Kazsuk said. “Some of these kids, they don’t know what it’s like to be able to see good. They’re getting eye exams before they go to school now, and that’s a good thing…I think they still need to get eye exams after kindergarten. Their vision can change that quick, and these kids just think it’s normal. Kids don’t know the difference.”
She said children in Kentucky are required to have an eye exam, dental exam and a physical before starting school. However, funding for that often depends on insurance.
If they don’t have insurance, she said, parents pay for those services. She said that’s why RAM is such an important cause.
“Sometimes, that’s a burden,” she said of the exams. “It’s usually a burden for those that fall between. The lower income get Medicaid. Others have insurance. But those in between, they fall through the cracks. That’s why this is such a good thing. They get a full eye exam here, just as if they were going to an office.”
For Kylan, that left him with a smile that couldn’t be hidden.