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
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
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
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.