During the height of the financial crisis in 2008, the consulting firm that had employed Bob Greene for many years was bought out leaving him and 1700 others without a job. Unemployed and uninsured, the former sales consultant found himself struggling to control his diabetes as he didn’t have enough money for doctor visits. When Bob noticed his vision getting blurry and found himself pulling closer and closer to the TV, he scraped together all the cash he could to see an eye doctor. Bob soon learned that diabetes had caused his eyesight to deteriorate.
“They found cataracts over both of my eyes,” states Bob, as he recalls the results from his eye exam. “My eyes tested 20/400. The financial counselor told me the cataract surgery would run over $5,000 for each eye. I didn’t know what to do. I was uninsured and had no way to fund this surgery.”
Bob credits the staff at Carolina Eye Sight as being instrumental in connecting him with the organization who would give him his sight back—South Carolina Lions.
Founded in 1917, Lions Club International is the largest service club organization in the world with 1.3 million members and over 46,000 clubs in 206 countries. South Carolina has 159 clubs in four districts. Through their charitable arm, South Carolina Lions Charitable Services, they’re able to fund vision-related exams and treatments, optical supplies, hearing devices, financial assistance for eye surgeries and youth activities for low-income residents ineligible for state assistance.
The Downtown Columbia Lions Club members heard of Bob’s story from Carolina Eye Center and encouraged Bob to apply to the SC Lions Charitable Services’ Eye Surgery Program, which facilitates eye surgeries for financially needy patients. Bob filled out an application and was overjoyed by his approval two weeks later. He had surgery on his right eye in May 2012 and two months later was operated on the other eye. Bob credits his eye doctor’s staff and South Carolina Lions for being determined to help him see again. As a way of expressing his gratitude, he spoke at the Leo Club (one of the organization’s junior clubs housed at Lexington Middle School) about his experience, which inspired two students from the club to raise over $1,000 for the organization’s charitable initiatives. The two students received special recognition as the youngest club members in South Carolina to raise this amount of funds.
When asked how his quality of life has improved, Bob chuckles.
“Before I couldn’t see anything,” Bob states. “My apartment was always messy but I couldn’t ever tell, and my friends didn’t want to tell me. After the surgery, I saw how filthy the apartment got and went on a cleaning spree. Now my friends laugh and tell me they didn’t know my eyes were that bad.”
Bob now enjoys 20/25 vision and says that he has gotten back to reading. He plans to become a Lion himself and give others the gift of sight.