Djiboutian, US Doctors Keep Eyes Out for Djiboutians
U.S. Army Col. (Dr.) Richard Birdsong, a health surgeon with Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa 411th Civil Affairs Battalion, assesses a Djiboutian soldier during an eye examination clinic in Djibouti, Djibouti, March 27, 2013. Birdsong, who specializes in ophthalmology, participated in the 2-day clinic with Djibouti Armed Forces Health Services doctors. Overall, more than two dozen patients received eye examinations and the doctors determined six patients needed eye surgeries, including two children with cataracts. Arrangements are under way to get the patients the medical care they need. (Photo courtesy of Sahal Abdi, U.S. Embassy)
A bilateral venture between doctors from the 411th Civil Affairs Battalion in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa's and Djibouti Armed Forces Health Services recently provided dozens of civilian patients long-awaited eye examinations here.
U.S. Army Col. (Dr.) Richard Birdsong, a CJTF-HOA health surgeon who specializes in ophthalmology, conducted an eye examination clinic after discovering at a meeting in February that doctors from DJAF Health Services had at least five patients who were Djiboutian soldiers or their family members with symptoms of eye disease or deteriorating vision.
"Everyone at the meeting agreed to set up the examinations and try to help these individuals," said Birdsong.
Held at the DJAF health clinic, Birdsong and DJAF Lieutenant Amina Mohamed Farah, the family medicine chief, conducted the examinations. Once completed, the doctors learned six patients needed eye surgery, including two children with cataracts.
"We've been in contact with the French Bouffard Military Hospital and found out they have excellent equipment," said Birdsong.
The French Bouffard Military Hospital is located in the capitol and arrangements are under way to get all of the patients the surgeries they need.
"There is a 5-year-old with a blocked tear duct and an adult with strabismus we're looking to treat at the emergency medical facility at Camp Lemonnier," said Birdsong. Strabismus surgery is a procedure to correct the misalignment of the eyes.
Overall, three DJAF doctors, Amina, Col. Ahmed Hassan and Col. Abdoulillah Ahmed, helped set up the examinations and will assist with the surgeries. U.S. Army Specialists Peguy Alcide and Jessica Brochu, French interpreters with the 411th CA BN, attended the eye examination clinic to translate between doctors and patients.
"The patients at the clinic are no different than American patients - they were friendly and welcoming," said Birdsong. "The only difference was the language barrier, but we had translators on hand, so it worked out well."
Birdsong said he would like to hold another eye examination clinic in the future.
"The first thing to do is make sure these patients get their operations," said Birdsong. "Once done, I'd love to hold another clinic. I look forward to it."
In addition, two children from the National Center for the Protection of Juvenile Boys, a boys' orphanage here, also received eye examinations.