Posted 12/14/2011 by UNMC Physicians
Marie Schaaf, OD, helps lead a patient down a clear path to recovery.
It’s been a long road traveled for Rain Skenandore.
Originally from Albuquerque, N.M., she then lived on her own, most recently in Las Vegas. For the past two months, the mother of two daughters, ages 4 and 2, has been in Omaha trying to get healthy and overcome her addiction by participating in a recovery program at the Siena/Francis House.
However, a key part in taking those steps down her path of recovery is being able to see classroom materials in the Miracles Treatment Center. The program is an in-patient addiction recovery program, based on a 12-step recovery model and lasts a minimum of four months for the inpidual.
It’s been four and a half years since Skenandore last had an eye exam and three years since she last had a pair of glasses.
Thanks to a new program offered at the Eye Specialties clinic at UNMC Physicians’ Village Pointe Medical Office Building, Skenadore is on the road to corrected vision and a healthier life.
“My vision is really bad,” she said. “I need glasses and I know that. I’ve been getting by without them, just by playing it off and asking friends to read signs for me. ”
Marie Schaaf, OD, an optometrist at Eye Specialties, began in July providing low-cost eye exams to homeless people, most participating in a local shelter’s addict recovery program. Like Skenandore, many of these patients have not had an eye exam performed on them in years.
“For the majority of them, it’s their first eye exam in years,” Schaaf said. “I can’t imagine how some of them have been getting by so long without glasses. I’m just really glad I can help them out.”
Schaaf began the program after being contacted by Marilyn Wegehaupt, a former Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) shelter nurse.
“It’s worked out beautifully,” said Wegehaupt, who recently retired. “Dr. Schaaf makes it very personable and has provided terrific services. No matter who walks into the clinic, they are going to get quality service.”
The VNA public health nurses provide care to inpiduals and families in Omaha and Council Bluffs homeless shelters. Wegehaupt contacted Schaaf about the need for eye exams, so everyone could see and learn from the program.
Without hesitation, Schaaf agreed to help. She schedules five eye exams a month for these patients and typically never has trouble getting those slots filled.
She performs a routine eye exam, offers advice to patients on how to keep their eyes healthy and gives them a prescription. Patients then are able to fill the prescription through a separate program called Prevent Blindness that provides free eyewear.
Skenandore entered her eye exam with vision problems consisting of extreme eye dryness, astigmatism and difficulty seeing detail in objects at a distance. Her lack of clear vision has been a hinderance while participating in the recovery treatment program.
Skenandore said she is excited that she will be able to get a new vision prescription and new glasses.
“I’ll be able to pay more attention in class, so I’m not taking away my focus from what’s being written on the board, because I won’t be talking to my neighbors asking them what it says.”
She added that getting her vision corrected is a huge asset as she continues down the road to recovery.
“I’m grateful,” she said about the low-cost eye exam. “Just very, very grateful.”
These exams haven’t only had an impact on the patients — those patients have also made an impact on Schaaf. She plans to offer the low-cost eye exams indefinitely and find more ways to help people in need.
“I really like being able to help out the people in the Omaha area and making an impact on lives locally,” Schaaf said. “I had always thought some day I wanted to give back and work with the homeless or people in need and offering the low-cost eye exams has been a great way of doing just that.”