By LYNN LOFTON
Like many Americans, Rainna Bahadur, M.D., was moved by the courage of first responders in the tragedy of the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York City. The Gulf Coast ophthalmologist and partner of Eye Associates of the South wanted to find something she could do for local first responders.
An idea presented itself one night as she drove home from work to be with her family.
“I saw a policeman with a car pulled over. It was dark and he had no idea what he would encounter, and I thought how an officer wearing glasses could be disabled visually,” she recalls. “They risk so much every day for our families and I wanted to help.”
Bahadur’s desire to help came to fruition when a fireman told her he didn’t wear his glasses on calls because they wouldn’t fit under his helmet. She performed LASIK surgery for him at no cost. “It’s comforting to know he can now see when he goes on calls,” she said.
Surgery for more first responders has come about through Sgt. Jackie Rhodes of the Biloxi Police Department. He’s been a patient at Eye Associates of the South since the early 1990s and was pleased with his LASIK surgery. “With LASIK, the difference is between night and day, not having to have something artificial on my eyes anymore,” he said.
With Rhodes’ input, Biloxi Police Investigator Nick Sonnier was chosen to receive LASIK from Dr. Bahadur at no cost. “Being visually impaired with eyeglasses or contacts takes away your ability to protect yourself,” he said. “Can LASIK be life saving for me? Oh, yes. The opportunity that people have to disable me on the job, LASIK takes that away. It’s a relief, not having to worry about contact lenses or glasses anymore.”
Bahadur says it’s a tremendous honor to be allowed to perform LASIK for first responders. “It makes me feel so good, and I’m pleased I can offer this ‘thank you’ for their service and sacrifice,” she said. “It’s my way of doing something for the community and the people who help all of us. It goes back to seeing that policeman on the side of the road that night.”
Bahadur does not choose first responders who receive the surgery. Sonnier won a Biloxi Police Department drawing to receive his LASIK. “It’s something I always wanted to do, but I’m a single father raising two boys, so I never would have spent the money on myself, “Sonnier said. “I can’t say thanks enough.”
However, she does provide the extensive evaluation to make sure the first responder is an ideal candidate for the surgery. “It’s elective surgery, so I don’t want to make them worse off,” she said. “There are lots of variables so we make sure it’s the right procedure.”
This laser eye surgery does not take a long amount of time; maybe 10 minutes after it begins. “The laser on each eye can range from only 16 seconds to 60 seconds to make a tremendous change in someone’s life,” Bahadur said.
A native of Greenwood, Bahadur is a magna cum laude graduate of Millsaps College and a graduate of the University of Mississippi Medical School, where she was chief resident in opthalmology and the school’s first opthalmology resident to do LASIK surgery. She completed a cornea fellowship at the prestigious Dean McGee Eye Institute at the University of Oklahoma. She is a board certified ophthalmologist who specializes in cornea and external disease and refractive surgery.
Bahadur is active in numerous professional organizations and community and charitable organizations, including the Lion’s Club of Biloxi, Eye Care of America (providing free eye care for those in need), and the Junior Auxiliary of Gulfport. She is a board member of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children) of Harrison County. She was chosen by patients in the region to receive the Patients’ Choice Award in both 2011 and 2012 for her quality of care and service. She also was recognized as a 2010 Caring Woman honoree. She resides in Gulfport with her husband, son and daughter.
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