Thursday, May 23, 2013

Into the Heart of Darkness

GOS - May 23 - Into the Heart of Darkness

Thursday dawned bright and clear in Marpha, with a cool breeze replacing yesterday's hot winds. Fields of wheat and apple trees dot the countryside. It was a delightful spring day in this part of the world 8,800 feet above sea level. 

It's our busiest day yet. We registered over 100 patients before noon and more were literally coming out of the hills, although it's certainly poetic license to call these 23,000+ peaks "hills."

Dozens wait their turn outside, while kids play in the front yard of the community hall. In one corner, a Buddhist monk screens for visual acuity. Expedition leader Scott Hamilton, a certified ophthalmic assistant, and Operation Restore Vision's Travis Jenkins, M.D., handle refraction. They check for presbyopia, the inability to read close-up that is a natural part of aging. For those who are illiterate, they're simply called sewing glasses.

Time and again, I see the patient's eyes light up as they can read the bottom line of a hand-held reading card. Even a pair of readers can profoundly improve the quality of life. I know how they feel: I'm lost without mine.

Toronto nurse Elizabeth Fudge, and James Conole, a foundation doctor from Leeds, UK, provide basic medical advice and pharmaceuticals to rows upon rows of locals with a variety of physical ailments.

Meanwhile, around the corner, Gift of Sight and Himalaya Eye Hospital have converted a meeting room into a field hospital, preparing it overnight with an aerosol disinfectant. Here's where the most life changing work is being conducted. Patients screened the previous few days with what would be considered legal blindness in the States, or worse, receive cataract surgery in our makeshift surgical suite.

Filmmaker Daniel Byers of Skyship Films, creator of 2012's "Visions of Mustang," scrubs up to add footage from the surgical suite to his short film about the 2013 project which will premiere at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary in the next few months.

Scott and Dr. Govinda Nath Yogi, ophthalmic assistant supervisor from the Himalayan Eye Hospital, use an iPhone to  photograph an image of optic atrophy to consult with Dr. Ronald Gentile of New York Eye and Ear via telemedicine.

On Friday bandages will be removed and visual acuity evaluated during post-op. We anticipate a heartwarming reaction as each patient receives the gift of sight.

- Jeff Blumenfeld

No comments:

Post a Comment