Missouri Special Olympics athletes get new healthcare opportunities

3 months 4 weeks 22 hours ago Sunday, November 25 2018 Nov 25, 2018 Sunday, November 25, 2018 9:50:00 PM CST November 25, 2018 in News
By: Elise Brisco, KOMU 8 News

COLUMBIA - Sarah Byland is a golfer, bowler and swimmer. Every year she competes in different olympic events with Special Olympics Missouri. Recently at the Outdoor Games, she won more than just a medal--she won a better view of life with a new prescription for glasses. 

According to the World Health Organization, people with disabilities are susceptible to not having great access to health care. This is an effect of no access to health care, issues with mobility or communication barriers between the patient and doctor.

Special Olympics Missouri moved into a new training facility in August. An aspect of this new facility is a health clinic that provides health screenings to the special athletes. 

Sarah is an exception to many of the athletes that come through the screenings through Healthy Athletes because she has access to health care. Clinical Director of the Opening Eyes program Dr. LeeAnn Barrett says most of the other athletes do not have that access--for many that participate in the Special Olympics, Healthy Athletes is one of the only times they get health exams. 

Sarah has been participating with Special Olympics for over 30 years. Her mother, Jeanie Byland described how visiting the doctor could be difficult for people with disabilities like Sarah because of limited speech issues.

"When you're at your regular physician, they might say something where Sarah might say 'oh'--or you could tell she didn't understand what they were saying," Jeanie said.

Jeanie says that most of the doctors are used to communicating with children and adults with intellectual disabilities and are able to communicate with Sarah well. 

At the most recent Special Olympics games Sarah's vision was tested. She already had a prescription but the clinicians within the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program found that it was time for her to get a pair of bifocals.

 "It is very hard work on the day of the vision screening," Dr. Barrett said, "we saw over a hundred athletes."

Dr. Barrett has also won gold through her efforts to provide care for the athletes.

During her early years volunteering with healthy athletes she helped a swimmer get a prescription of swim goggles to help her see the lines along the bottom of the pool better. The swimmer ended up winning the gold medal in the national Special Olympics. When she came back to Missouri she made sure that Dr. Barrett was thanked for her help and gave her the gold medal.

"I have that hanging, in my bedroom at home," Dr.Barrett said. 

After trying on her new glasses that will help her read Sarah gave her stamp of approval. 

"I love it," Sarah said, "So I can see better." 

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