Optometrist is a sight for sore eyes

By Pfc. Abel Trevino
28th Public Affairs Detachment

LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq — Amongst all the problems in combat zones, eye problems are generally overlooked. One man, Maj. Bruce Flint, doctor of optometry, makes the eye problems of LSA Anaconda his business.

"Anybody who has an eye problem and makes it on the base, we're willing to do an exam for," the optometrist with the 81st Brigade Combat Team said.

Although the optometry office can only prescribe glasses and medication for American military personnel, Flint said that the military is hoping to acquire funding to provide glasses and treatment for the children of local villages.

Flint has practiced optometry for the past 22 years. He has been assigned to the National Guard unit from the Pacific Northwest for seven years and arrived at LSA Anaconda in early April with the personal goal of assisting people with eye problems in emergency situations.

"I enjoy what I do," the Southern California College of Optometry graduate said. "There's a lot of satisfaction in helping and taking care of people. I do miss my family, greatly, but it sure is a nice feeling knowing you're making a positive contribution."

One of a handful of optometrists in country, Flint has been able to assist with vision problems that range from simple prescriptions and flight exams to removing debris, shrapnel, glass and other foreign bodies from the eyes of the injured.

Patients with more serious injuries, those that penetrate the eyes and damage the cornea, are flown to Baghdad for treatment.

"There are three surgeons there that specialize in [severe eye injuries]," he said.

In addition to seeing eye injuries from debris, Flint has seen people with corneal ulcers.

"All of the corneal ulcers have been associated with contact lens wear."

Contact lenses are prohibited in theater and can cause severe eye damage as well as an Article 15.

The most severe injuries, such as retinal detachment, are referred straight to Germany for treatment.

By taking preventive measures, the most common eye injuries can be avoided altogether.

"There have been a number of eye injuries that could have been avoided by protective eyewear," the father of five said. "I don't think there's anything more precious to lose than your sense of sight. It's a shame that some people lose it from lack of preparation."

Flint is the only optometrist at LSA Anaconda and sees an average of 20 patients a day. His office, in the Troop Medical Center, not only identifies eye afflictions, but also manufactures glasses and gas mask inserts to correct the vision problems for service members here.

Editor's Note: Pfc. Trevino is assigned to the 28th Public Affairs Detachment from Fort Lewis, Wash. He is currently deployed to Iraq in support of the 13th Corps Support Command at LSA Anaconda.

 

news photo
(LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq) - Maj. Bruce Flint, doctor of optometry, examines a patient’s eyes. Flint's office does a little of everything when it comes to the eyes, including examining and correcting vision problems. (courtesy photo)