Phil O’Donnell

“Getting on the freeways was really getting dicey for me. I couldn’t even see the lines on the road."

Phil O’Donnell was getting worried.

His vision was getting worse, but he didn’t know what was wrong. And, like many Americans in the midst of a recession, he had lost his job ─ and with it, his health insurance.

 It was hard to find the money even to go to an optometrist. “I scraped together the cash to get the test done,” he remembers, “and at that point I didn’t know what was wrong with my eyes ─ I just knew I had a problem and it was getting worse.”

The optometrist told Phil that he had severe cataracts, and that they would only get worse without treatment. “I tried to find out about what needed to be done; she said, ‘You need surgery to correct it.’ ”

Only one problem: “I definitely couldn’t afford to get it done,” Phil says. “ … when I was told I would need to have surgery, I thought that was an impossibility. If I was working and I had insurance it would be different, but I just thought there was no way I could get that done.”

Phil made several attempts to find a way to get the surgery he needed ─ and finally called the optometrist again. “She said, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s so great that you called.’ She was a member of the Lions Club. … she remembered my case and but couldn’t remember my name ─ she just remembered my circumstances. She could check for me. That’s kind of where it started.”

The optometrist put Phil in touch with the Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation, and he was quickly approved for assistance with the surgery he needed.

By the time he was scheduled to meet with a doctor, he recalls, his vision had deteriorated further. “Life was getting very difficult,” he remembers. “Getting on the freeways was really getting dicey for me. I couldn’t even see the lines on the road. If it was very hazy, that was a lot worse. It was like I was driving in a snow blizzard.

“It was scary, because if I had to drive someplace where I didn’t know where I was going, that was the most difficult, because I couldn’t even read freeway signs. Depending on how the sun was shining on them, I couldn’t see them at all ─ they were just blotches. If I knew the off ramp I was getting off on I was OK, but if I didn’t know where I was going, I was in trouble.”

Once the optometrist contacted LSHF, Phil’s situation changed dramatically. “They were really great at the Assil Eye Institute,” he reports. “They are one of the places that works with the Lions Club. It was a challenge, because it’s quite a ways away from where I’m located, but it was definitely worth it.”

The results were pretty dramatic. “After the first one, I could see completely clearly through that eye,” he recalls. “I was really looking forward to getting the second one done.”

Now, with his vision restored in both eyes, Phil’s only issue is that he needs glasses to read. The scary days when he couldn’t read freeway signs are behind him. “It’s kind of hard to remember,” he says, “because now I can see clearly.”

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