Without fanfare on April 6, Darrell Groman will mark his 25th anniversary of opening an optometric practice in Pandora.
He might pause between patients, ranging from age 4 to 84, to eat some cake and reflect upon the past quarter century of offering vision care which began in the rural village of population 1,000 on the first Wednesday of April in 1986.
"It has been a privilege to help people, one-at-a-time, to see better. Vision is paramount in an individual's performance and behavior, aspects which are often not regarded as being significantly interrelated. I have seen many who were not aware that he or she could see better, until they looked through certain choice lenses or prisms. And then, their world opened up. The smiles have been wonderful to see. Clear, single, comfortable and effortless vision can reduce headaches, significantly slow down 'wiggly' behavior, enhance academic and athletic performance and bring out the smiles."
From 1983 to 1999, Dr. Groman had offered vision care to countless individuals on 12 overseas VOSH missions in Central and South America, East Africa, sub-continent Asia and Eastern Europe.
"I have seen patients in villages where tourists typically do not visit, such as the village of El Nispero at the end of a dirt road in Honduras. Many of those smiles and 'tears of joy' were instantaneous, when, after a few minutes of an exam, they were given certain glasses from the pre-sorted inventory of used eyeglasses carried overseas by the mission team. Lives changed for the better, in a moment. Smiles and more smiles."
Early in his career, for 14 years, Dr. Groman served as the prison optometrist at Oakwood Correctional Facility in Lima. Oakwood is the mental health hospital in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections which, in former years, had been the Lima State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
On a one day a month basis, Dr. Groman offered vision care to the men and women inmates.
About this experience he said: "This gave me insight to begin to understand the significant, but rarely recognized, interrelationship between vision and behavior. In 950 B.C.E., King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 29:18a, 'Where there is no vision, the people run wild.' I found a number of inmates who had previously undetected eye-teaming (two-eyed, binocular vision) dysfunctions which had been adversely affecting their performance at near since their early elementary school years.
"Despite having "20/20 vision" with each individual eye looking at the acuity chart at 20 feet, these individuals often had blurry and/or double vision at near due to their eyes not working together as a yoked pair of eyes.
"Because of their faulty and uncoordinated two-eyed vision at near, the youngster avoided performing their school work at near, found he/she "didn't fit in the classroom," and became involved in aberrant activities.
"Literature sources reveal the fact when juvenile delinquents have been sentenced to optometric care, which have included appropriate therapeutic lenses and/or vision therapy, the recidivism rate drops from usual 70% re-arrest to a mere 15%."
Over the years, Dr. Groman has offered numerous in-service meetings to teachers, parents, school nurses and concerned citizens about the significant (often-ignored) impact which vision, two-eyed visual skills, head and body posture and the properly-slanted desk top surface has on school performance.
Within the past few months, Dr. Groman conducted seminars at Carey and Tiffin City Schools. Recently, he participated at an evening resource health fair for the Autism Collaborative, sponsored by the Putnam County Educational Service Center in Ottawa.
He said: "I have seen many individual lives change for the better, often '180-degrees for the better,' when vision, visual skills, head and body posture are brought towards normal function and performance.
"Simple lenses can help the struggling individual 'focus' better. Sometimes, it is found youngsters actually benefit with a different lens for near than for far away.
"Many kids wear bifocal contact lenses quite successfully and enable them to see more clearly and comfortably at near. The contact lenses are on the eyeball, move with the eye(s) and do not get 'banged-around' as often happen with glasses. Contact lenses work well for the individual who tends to look over glasses to see distant objects.'
"Many, including those who have suffered from traumatic brain injury, have been helped with weekly outpatient neuro-optometric rehabilitation to remediate their neuro-muscular and neuro-sensory visual dysfunctions.
"I am aware of a number of kids who graduated with honors last spring from high school and college who, years beforehand, were not on track for such academic success. Optometric care was a key component for their eventual achievements."
Based upon his optometric experience, Dr. Groman has written 13 articles for a former regional monthly news magazine. He has interest to write a book to expand upon those published articles while interweaving the "success stories" of several of his "hallmark kids and adults" whose lives have improved significantly with vision care and rehabilitation.
Dr. Groman, his wife (whom he had met on two overseas missions, where she had served as a local interpreter for the mission teams) and their two sons live in his hometown of Bluffton.
Dr. Groman is active with the local youth in Scouting. He is also a local historian who is helping with the town's upcoming sesquicentennial celebration in June.
Fond of the local Riley Creek since his youth (except when it rises over its banks,) he muses about the fact that he resides upstream in Bluffton and practices eight miles downstream in Pandora, making several effortless portages when traveling various "zig-zag" paths between the two villages: for home and office.