Furlong Vision Correction was awarded the Jefferson Award in 2011 for the Gift of Sight Program.
Dr. Furlong started the Gift of Sight program in 2002. This annual, charitable program provides consultations, Advanced Topography-Guided Custom LASIK and Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK) procedures and post-operative appointments at no cost for up to 10 deserving individuals in strong need of vision correction. Since launching the program, Dr. Furlong has provided services to 155 recipients, donating more than $985,000 in procedures.
This year, we worked with Kelly Estes and The Cost of Courage Foundation to identify military veterans who would benefit from this program. “The Cost of Courage Foundation supports the educational and personal needs of deserving military veterans in our community to ensure a successful transition back into civilian life so this is a great partnership with our Gift of Sight program,” said Dr. Furlong.
We also work with our optometric partners to identify possible recipients and this year, we had a patient of Dr. Ted Bailey’s, Plager Vision and Optometric Center in Santa Cruz.
THREE of our 2018 Patient Stories
Leonard Vigil III, a San Jose native, served in the United States Marine Corp from 2001 to 2005 and is a Purple Heart recipient. Following the 911 tragedy, his unit was deployed to several locations including Ramadi, Iraq, where his battalion endured a 40 percent casualty rate. On July 1, 2004, Leonard was hit with a roadside bomb and suffered shrapnel wounds and traumatic brain and vision injuries. Although he was injured, he was able to help all the other injured Marines and provided safety for them until they were medically evacuated. For this effort, he received the Purple Heart and the Marine and Navy Accommodation medal with a distinguished V for Valor.
Leonard’s prescription had changed several times. He is very grateful to be a Gift Of Sight recipient and to the Cost of Courage Foundation for giving him this opportunity.
Christal Letizia grew up in Hawaii – one of 16 kids! She enlisted in the Navy in 1999 for four years active duty and four on reserve duty. While active, she served on the USS John F Kennedy cv 67 the last nonnuclear, conventionally powered Navy air craft carrier. Christal’s two sons who currently live with Christal’s mother in Colorado Her daughter, Caylee, passed away at five months in 2011. “She has made my life mission to help other mothers with infant loss and miscarriage. My daughter was amazing and touched so many peoples’ lives in her short five months.” Christal has had treatment for PTSD and her eyesight started changing after battling intracranial hypertension that put pressure on her eyes. She hated glasses because they made her feel old and ugly not to mention that she couldn’t see her kids grow up!
Nate Tran is a retired veteran with honorable discharge after successfully serving over 20 years in the United States Navy, as a Hospital Corpsman (8404) providing emergency medical and dental assistant and physical readiness for Marines in Camp Pendleton, California and Okinawa, Japan. His combat deployments were Operation Desert Shield and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 1991 and 2006.
Upon completion of 20 years of military service, Nate worked two more years as a certified Combat Lifesaver Instructor. Due to several service connected injuries, he became a disabled veteran and his eyesight also got blurry. His service retirement plan is to continue learning new skills by taking information technology courses and seeking employment opportunity in this new profession while raising his three children. And he loves being able to wear sunglasses now!
TWO of our 2017 Patient Stories
Hank Provost served in the Air Force from 1974 to1981 as an electronics technician trained in solid-state theory. As a Communication Commander, Hank was in charge of a squadron of 500 at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi.
Hank was drafted while attending Kent State, becoming an activist after the Kent State massacre. He also protested the Iran hostage crisis, taking 52 American flags and one Canadian flag and stationing himself in front of the Buffalo News station and generating coverage on the Buffalo Evening News. At the time, he was stationed at a top-secret facility in Niagara Falls that had access only by the commanders and the President of the United States. His base commander also supported his protest.
Hank worked at a subsidiary of Lockheed in top-secret communications for the shuttle program. He eventually settled in Gilroy, Calif. with his wife and two sons. He and his wife owned a women’s lingerie store but his life changed when environmental health problems affected his son’s health. He eventually lost his home, business and marriage and is now at the Veteran’s Housing Facility in East San Jose.
Hank was so surprised at how painless the surgery was and said that an eyelash in his eye was more painful!
Hear Hank’s story about serving seven years in the Air Force and now loving to roller blade without his glasses!
Ilga Hernandez, 26, was legally blind without glasses or contacts. Ilga is a Santa Cruz native who lives with her mom and currently takes courses at Cabrillo College and is applying for some Radiology programs. She is also a barista and shift lead at Marianne’s Ice Cream. Growing up, she was very shy and afraid to speak up in the classroom as she couldn’t see the board even when sitting in the front row. Playing sports was a big challenge especially basketball and swimming. Ilga loves to sing and is a member of Pacific Voices, a non-profit community choir in Santa Cruz.
Ilga has been a patient of Plager Vision since she was eight years old and says she was so lucky to have been a candidate for the Furlong Vision Correction Gift of Sight Program. “Dr. Bailey entered me in a raffle and I got lucky! I am beyond thankful and blessed for this opportunity. I know that my improved vision will tremendously change my life for the better in every single way whether it’s work, exercise or my personal life. Most people don’t realize just how precious their vision is.”
One day after her surgery, she said that she could not express how much it has already changed her life. “I’m so excited!”
Past partners in the program include Team Red, White and Blue, Hope Services, The American Cancer Society, Diabetes Society of Santa Clara County, Valle Monte League, Junior League of San Jose and Make-A-Wish Foundation have been past partners of the program.