Residents get free eye, hearing tests in Mooresville

A cataract left Lori Watkins blind in her right eye, but on Tuesday the Mooresville woman learned she may soon be able to see again.

Watkins, 53, can’t afford health insurance. She and here husband run a small lawn care business, and money is tight raising three granddaughters.

On Tuesday, she and dozens of other residents who can’t afford insurance received free eye and hearing tests from volunteer eye doctors and audiologists at the Lions International of North Carolina Screening Vision and Hearing Van.

The 60-foot van stopped in the parking lot of Merinos Home Furnishings on South Main Street. The van makes 150 stops across the state each year and is booked through 2015, said Bryan Hoover, state coordinator of the van.

No appointment is necessary, and each patient also receives blood-pressure and blood-glucose level checks.

On Tuesday, optometrists from the Eye Care Center, Vision Center of Lake Norman and Eyes on Lake Norman tested for visual acuity, glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetes. Audiologists from Lake Breeze ENT & Allergy tested for hearing issues.

“That’s why I got into (audiology), to help people,” Lake Breeze ENT Dr. Diana Eshleman said. “I have a brother with disabilities, and I wanted to help people with disabilities.”

Volunteering one day out of the year “isn’t too much to ask,” she said.

The event was sponsored by six Lake Norman-area Lions clubs, Mooresville-based HealthReach Community Clinic, Christian Mission of Mooresville/Lake Norman and Mooresville Soup Kitchen.

Mylene Collins, a volunteer translator at HealthReach, translated for Hispanic patients at the van.

“She doesn’t have eyeglasses,” Collins told doctors as she translated for Mitchell Community College student Laura Valez, 30.

With 20-30 vision, her sight is a bit blurry and she could use them, Dr. Ed Mills of the Eye Care Center said. Valez was given the number for the N.C. Division of Services for the Blind, which might be able to pay for her glasses.

Watkins, too, was referred to the state agency to pay to remove her cataract.

“All she needs is cataract surgery, and she’ll be able to see again,” Hoover said.

Watkins learned of the van through HealthReach, which provides free medical care to Iredell County adults who can’t afford health care coverage.

“It’s a blessing for those of us who don’t have insurance,” Watkins said of HealthReach and the Lions International van.