Tuesday, May 21, 2013

GOS - May 21 - Need for Eyecare Becomes Clear

The 16 monks on the Gift of Sight expedition were up at the crack of dawn today here in Tukuche to organize the dental clinic we have converted into a remote eyecare facility. The clouds lifted to provide a spectacular view of 23,166-ft. Mt. Nilgiri as patients began to arrive.

For months the monks have placed billboards and posters and traveled door to door to let people know about the Dooley Intermed eye camps. They created cartoon posters for the 60 percent of the adult population who can't read.

Yesterday and this morning there was even a wizened old man who traveled up and down the street announcing the clinic - a modern-day town crier.

Waiting for us were men and women, most elderly, but youngsters too, with a number of women carrying small children on their backs. They waited outside the concrete brick building squatting in the unique style we saw yesterday along the countryside during our arduous 7-hr. odyssey to lower Mustang (pronounced MOO-sthang).

After a brief welcoming ceremony, an assembly line of sorts was formed. First was an eye chart exam run by monks, then an eye exam by Chris Teng of New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, then refraction by our partners at Himalayan Eye Hospital, and basic eyecare by Teng's Operation Restore Vision colleagues, Travis Jenkins and Sanjay Kedhar.

Final stop was a check of vital signs and basic healthcare advice by a volunteer nurse and UK foundation doctor who joined the project.

Within an hour, the Operation Restore Vision ophthalmologists saw serious conditions that rarely progress this far in the States: mature cataracts in both eyes, severe glaucoma, embedded foreign objects, and preventable blindness. Even a case of TB was discovered. There is no shortage of suffering. The most serious will be selected for surgery later this week.

We touched the lives of 250 Nepali today. In this, our first day in the field, the critical need to provide quality eyecare in this part of the Third World isn't hard to see.

- Jeff Blumenfeld 

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