When Clinton County Supervisor Dan Srp and his wife’s daughter, Josie, was almost 4 years old, it appeared one of her eyelids drooped a bit, particularly when she was tired.
They spoke with her pediatrician about it, who felt it was something she likely would grow out of.
Fortunately, however, Josie attended a preschool that participated in the area Noon Lions Club eye-screening program, Iowa KidSight.
After she was screened, Srp and his wife received a letter recommending their daughter see a pediatric ophthalmologist. The couple took her, and Josie was diagnosed with amblyopia, a condition where one eye is more dominant than the other.
“What can happen is the brain will abandon use of the weaker eye, and usually results in a kind of lazy-eye type of extra visibility,” Srp explained. “But really, for the child or for the individual, they essentially lose sight and go blind in that one eye.”
Thankfully, after about 18 months of treatment, during which the Srps took their daughter to see the doctor periodically and she wore a patch and eventually, glasses, the outcome was successful.
“We will forever be grateful for that,” Srp noted. “The service they provide is really outstanding. If we had a different diagnosis, or if you wait too long, treatment may not be successful. Then, you’re talking about impacting the rest of a young person’s life. And you always want what’s best for your family. It really is a terrific thing.”
Volunteers with the DeWitt Noon Lions, as well as other area Lions Clubs who provide this service, want to make sure parents of young children know it’s available to them.
One such volunteer is DeWitt Noon Lions member Duane Hansen, who conducts the vision screenings for local children ages 6 months through kindergarten in daycares (public and private), preschools and schools.
“We talk to a lot of people and they don’t know what (the Iowa KidSight Program) is all about,” Hansen related.
The program is a statewide vision screening program for infants and children. It also is a joint project of the Lions Clubs of Iowa and the University of Iowa, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, dedicated to enhancing early detection and treatment of vision impairments.
The program is specifically geared toward young children, with a target population of 6 to 48 months of age, through screening and public education.
The goals of the program are to objectively screen the vision of infants and young children throughout all of Iowa’s 99 counties — for free. It also aims to educate the public about the risk of undetected vision loss and identify ways to sustain vision screening programs of this type.
For many years, the local Lions clubs have been collecting glasses for youngsters who need them and performing eye screenings to check for any vision problems.
Students are screened for basic vision, nearsightedness and farsightedness. Lions members also can check for cataracts and lazy eyes.
“(Young children) can’t tell you if they can’t see,” Hansen noted. “They don’t know any different. We are able to help notify parents of any problems.”
Molly Vickers, of Grand Mound, is grateful for the program, as it helped to detect an issue in her son, Abe’s, vision when he was 5 years old.
At the time, Abe attended Creative Learning Center in DeWitt.
“Abe had one eye that was very weak,” Vickers explained. “But since he was still young, they were able to improve it by using patches and glasses. (Dr. Mark Benson) explained that with Abe’s issue, there was a small window of time that you can improve the vision using patches and glasses. But if you miss that window, you are stuck with the vision you have. I am so thankful for that screening.”
Hansen said, the procedure is simple. Using a specialized camera, he takes a picture of a child’s eyes, and sends the picture to University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
Families are notified of any problems and if any are detected, they are urged to take their children to an eye doctor. Should a family not have the financial means to pay for an exam, Lions members can help.
Hansen said he tries to hit all the local daycares and preschools in the fall, not long after school has begun.
So far this school year, he has performed screenings at Grace Lutheran Preschool, St. Joseph, Creative Learning, Kids Business, and a couple of private daycare facilities.
Anyone who operates a daycare and would like Hansen to conduct screenings may call 309-229-9809.
Hansen said he and the DeWitt Noon Lions Club are happy to help any children they can.
“It’s important to catch any problems early,” he related. “I’ve been doing (screenings) for six years, and I just enjoy what it does for the children. It’s a great feeling when you get to help kids and know they’re healthy and will be able to do well in school.”