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AGNES IRONS REMEMBERS LIONS CLUB
By Marshall McClung
Agnes Irons never thought that she would be able to see at this point in her life let alone be doing paintings and other arts and crafts that she now does. At one point Agnes was considered legally blind. "I could not see the lines painted on the highway by my house," Irons stated. Now Agnes does paintings one of which she is donating to the Robbinsville Lions Club to be used as a fund raiser to show her appreciation for the help she received from the Lions Club. The Lions Club will be selling tickets on the painting which is a scene of Santeetlah Darn and Lake. The drawing for the painting will be held Saturday, February 11. In addition to paintings, Agnes also makes baskets, beadwork, and Christmas ornaments.
Agnes had eleven operations on her eyes beginning in 1957. This included four cornea transplants. Some of the eye surgery techniques were not as advanced then as they are now prompting some of the eye surgery to be repeated. At one point, Agnes had to lie flat on her back for two weeks with small sand bag weights packed around her head.
Agnes was first seen in one of the Lions Club Cooperative Eye Clinics. Arnold Hyde was a field representative with the N.C. Commission for the Blind at the time. Hyde worked with Mrs. Elba Kearney, the District Supervisor of the Medical Division of the N.C. Commission for the Blind. Together, they organized eleven Cooperative Eye Clinics in the twelve westernmost counties of N.C.
The N.C. Commission for the Blind paid for surgery and hospital care on all eye cases certified by the local Department of Public Welfare. The Robbinsville Lions Club and the N.C. Association for the Blind (now known as the N.C. Lions Foundation for the Blind), purchased the equipment used in Graham County.
These eye clinics were usually located in the county health departments. The Commission for the Blind furnished an eye physician and a medical nurse who traveled to the counties for a one day eye clinic.
The Asheville Lions Club Eye Clinic had been serving all indigent cases prior to 1950 before local eye clinics were organized in Graham and other counties in Western North Carolina. This required a lot of transportation to and from Asheville in days before four lane highways. The Robbinsville Lions Club and the Lions Association for the Blind paid for the eye glasses on certified cases in Graham County.
Hyde said Agnes was first seen in the Asheville Eye Clinic and a cornea transplant was recommended. She was sent to Duke university Hospital for her first transplant which was unsuccessful. Agnes was put on the priority list for a second transplant. At that time, the N.C. Eye Bank was located in Winston- Salem, and was the coordinating eye bank for all eye banks in the U.S. Priority was given to emergency cases, and the name of the attending physician was included on the priority list. This meant that an available cornea could come from anywhere in the U.S.
Hyde was working in Graham County on other eye care matters when the call came that a cornea was arriving by plane that afternoon from the state of Washington for Agnes. It was requested that Agnes be brought to Asheville immediately. Hyde took Agnes to Asheville and the transplant surgery was performed.
Agnes received another transplant later on and was seen numerous times in both the local eye clinic and the Asheville Eye Clinic. Agnes received craft training through the Rehabilitation Division. The Robbinsville Lions Club provided much of the transportation, eye glasses and craft materials for Agnes' treatment and training.
Agnes was the guest of honor at a meeting of the Robbinsville Lions Club on January 5 and presented her painting to them.
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This page is maintained by Tom Livingston, Robbinsville, North Carolina