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NEWS | Aug. 6, 2023

Right time, right place: Optometrist at Guam Innovative Readiness Training

By Maj. Chelsea Kersten 9th Mission Support Command

Active-duty U.S. Navy Cmdr. Paul Mayo, an optometrist assigned to U.S. Naval Hospital Guam, diagnosed a retinal tear in a Guam community member and referred her for emergency surgery, during Guam Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) at the Calvo Field House at the University of Guam Aug. 4.

Dr. Mayo stated the patient came to him complaining of blurred vision. When he looked into the light gathering area in the back of her eye, using a special instrument called an ophthalmoscope, he saw the problem, and that critical problem required urgent surgery.

The reason for the urgent surgery was that she had a tear in the part of the eye that takes what we see and turns it into electrical activity from which the brain forms an image we call sight. If the tear extends, like a ripped piece of clothing, then the patient would become blind.

The patient was extraordinarily lucky to be in the right place at the right time with the right talent. Dr. Mayo strongly credits having specifically talented providers immediately available to manage dire events, as a key ingredient of success. He pointed out that collaboration with the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services is essential for complete care.

“Before I could send a message to the local ophthalmologist I know, they (Public Health) called a different practice and got her in within the hour. The team from the Guam DPHSS (Department of Public Health and Social Services) is amazing. The patient’s need for immediate care cannot be overstated.” Regarding how long it might take for the tear to extend causing blindness, Dr. Mayo stated, “…one cannot say, sometimes it can be within hours, or it could be months. This was an emergency that could lead to blindness in her affected eye if prompt evaluation treatment were delayed.”

Guam Wellness IRT is a collaborative partnership with the Department of Public Health and Social Services that leverages military contributions and community resources to enhance value and cost savings for participants. The Guam IRT provides no cost healthcare services, ranging from medical, dental, optometry, and immunizations, to the communities of Guam, Aug. 2-10, 2023. (U.S. Army Reserve Photo by Maj. Chelsea Kersten)