Sunday, July 13, 2014

Online effort sets sights on preventing blindness

Eye doc hitting social media to help in developing countries

February 16. 2014 11:26PM

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Right now the total amount of donations in the Goal In Sight campaign is pushing $4,000 with the match, Dr. Erik Kruger said.

Potential donors who are uncomfortable donating online or who are seeking a tax deduction by donating larger amounts can send checks, marked in the memo as “Goal In Sight Laser,” directly to Surgical Eye Expeditions at SEE International, 6950 Hollister Ave., Suite 250, Santa Barbara, CA 93117. SEE has earmarked another $2,000 for the lasers.

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A local eye doctor hopes people “like” his idea for helping to prevent blindness.

Dr. Erik Kruger, an ophthalmologist with Eye Care Specialists in Kingston, is taking to social media to raise money to help others in developing countries. He is employing a technique known as “crowdfunding” to collect enough donations to buy lasers for patients in other countries that don’t have them. He said the lasers will be used to treat diabetic eye disease.

Crowdfunding is a way to solicit small donations from a large number of people, usually over the Internet, to fund anything from disaster relief to business ventures to civic, scientific or artistic projects. It encourages donors to spread the word about the cause on Facebook and other websites.

“There are sort of two prongs to the story,” Kruger said. “I tell people it’s great to donate, but then you have to tell other people.”

Kruger, who does volunteer work locally with Volunteers In Medicine and internationally with Surgical Eye Expeditions, recognized the need for the lasers almost two years ago when he was in Vietnam with SEE to treat diabetic retinopathy, a potentially blinding eye disease.

“I brought the portable laser needed to treat the disease with me because it is not an affordable option for these clinics,” he said.

To bring in a doctor from another country every six months with a laser is not enough to treat everyone, either. Kruger said he examined and treated many patients who had traveled on foot for days to get to the clinic. He said that while volunteer doctors try to treat as many patients as possible during the few days the laser is available, most patients never get treated because there are too many.

Surgical Eye Expeditions, based in Santa Barbara, Calif., matches doctors with need in developing countries. The organization has focused on cataract treatment but recently began treating diabetic retinopathy, which could be a buildup of fluid in the retina or development of new blood vessels on the retina that could detach the retina or bleed inside the eye, Kruger explained.

“Thousands of people are not being treated,” he said. “They don’t have the equipment we have in the U.S.”

He plans to return to Vietnam later this year to set up a laser there and train doctors how to use it, and he may go to Honduras next year.

A used laser costs about $10,000; new, they run from about $40,000 to $80,000, depending on the extras.

Kruger’s crowdfunding campaign is called “Goal In Sight” on the crowdfunding website To see his page, enter “Goal In Sight” in the “Search by title” box on the website and then click the link; or, it can be viewed directly on the site at The site includes options to donate by PayPal or credit card, as well as links to Facebook, Twitter, email and elsewhere, where donors can tell others about the campaign.

The Eye Care Specialists Charitable Fund, administered by The Luzerne Foundation, will match any donations to the Goal in Sight campaign, dollar for dollar up to $5,000. The campaign, which runs through March 22, has a goal of $10,000.

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