News: Eye opening benefits offered at Madigan
Story by Staff Sgt. David Chapman
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Battling with glasses and contacts are common tasks that many soldiers are subjected to when their vision isn’t perfect. Fortunately for soldiers on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the opportunity to rid themselves of steamed up glasses and lost contacts is as simple as a visit to their local on post hospital.
The Laser Refractive Surgery Center located at the Madigan Healthcare System on JBLM, provides soldiers the opportunity to correct their problem vision by using the Warfighter Refractive Eye Surgery Program. WRESP was established by the Department of Defense so that soldiers could deploy and not have to battle the complications of wearing glasses while performing their duties in various environments.
“This is specifically set aside for war fighters. This program has been set up to improve mission readiness,” said Dr. Angela Triebold, MHS optometrist. “We want to be able to deploy these soldiers and have them not worry about breaking glasses or improper contact lens care, we want to make sure we are getting the front-line soldiers to take advantage of this free procedure.”
Located at MHS for the last ten years, the clinic is capable of doing both Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) and Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK) and average 1,000 procedures a year. Both surgeries use lasers to shape the cornea of the eye to correct a person’s vision.
The process begins when the soldier has an eye scan that will measure and determine if they are candidates for the surgery. Some will be tested and find they are good for the surgery, while others may get the disappointing news that they are not able to do the surgery.
“My job is to look at the cornea thickness and make sure there are no abnormalities in the eye. If someone’s prescription is too high or too low or if they don’t have enough time left in the Army, something like thin cornea’s can hold someone back from getting the procedure,” said Clint Pugh, ophthalmic technician and seven year member of the clinic. “I try to let people know if I find something that is going to eliminate them from the procedure. They are usually disappointed but at least they know. We have about 10-20 percent who are not candidates.”
One particular soldier, 1st Lt. Christopher Griggs, executive officer for the 14th Engineer Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade, was eager to come in and start checking into the procedure.
“It was such a pain downrange to wear glasses all the time so I knew as soon as we got back that I was going to be doing this,” Griggs said. “My command has been very supportive. I know the battalion has pushed a lot of people through the clinic to get Soldiers the treatment they need.”
Some soldiers may be somewhat apprehensive about going to have the surgery done. But the staff at the center is quick to offer compassion and hospitality to those who come.
“They are really friendly here. I would tell anyone who has thought about getting this procedure done to come in and do it,” said Griggs. “Come in and get your eyes fixed. It’s free; it’s going to help them out especially when they are deployed. It helps them and it helps the Army so everyone wins.”
Soldiers interested being tested and having the PRK or LASIK procedure, can contact the Refractive Surgery Center at Madigan Healthcare System at 253-968-5516 or go to the center’s website http://www.mamc.amed.army.mil/opthalmology/refractive.htm for more information.