Sunday, May 26, 2013

Mission Over, But the Need Continues

GOS - May 26 - Mission Over, But the Need Continues

This is the final blog of the 2013 Gift of Sight Expedition. Through words and images we hope we were successful in communicating the critical need for projects of this nature, as well as the incredible dedication of our expeditionary ophthalmologists who not only donated their time, but paid their own expenses as well.

Then there were the 16
Buddhist monks who demonstrated exceptional compassion for local villagers, devoted untold hours to attract patients, then kept them comfortable during their visit.

Last night we held a final dinner at a Pokhara restaurant attended by a group of local journalists who will cover the expedition over the
next few days.

After our doctors left this afternoon, expedition leader Scott Hamilton held a post-expedition briefing at the Himalaya Eye Hospital (HEH) in Pokhara, a pleasant open campus with gardens and breathtaking views of its namesake mountain range. A logbook of some 700 Nepalis treated this week was presented to HEH administrator Narayan Baral along with a certificate of appreciation for each staff member.

The expedition was a success. No one became sick or injured and our Operation Restore Vision doctors worked side by side with Nepal's 2013 Ophthalmologist of the Year,  Dr. Indra Man Maharjan, an expert in small incision cataract surgery.

Behind the Scenes

These blogs and images were written and photographed using an iPhone 4S, then sent via cellular or WiFi when and if we could find it. In a few cases, the Internet, already agonizing slow in these parts, and barely faster than dial-up, would mysteriously fail as the wind picked up.

When we were totally cut off from the outside world, our inReach two-way satellite communicator from DeLorme allowed us to send and receive 160 characters at a time.

With the Help of Our Friends

An expedition of this size and complexity depends upon the support of its sponsors, first and foremost the Dooley Intermed Foundation, Operation Restore Vision, the Pema Ts'al Sakya Monastic Institute, the Himalaya Eye Hospital, the Paul & Irene Bogoni Foundation, and Sherpa Adventure Gear, which provided shells and fleece for the doctors as well as our dedicated monk assistants.

Suppliers included Keeler Instruments, DeLorme, and LokSak. Our thanks as well to the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary - Ronald Gentile, MD, and John Aljian, MD, for allowing a dream team of ophthalmologists achieve so much in such trying conditions.

Our mission is done, but the need continues to be great. We learn from the Himalaya Eye Hospital that the extreme Far Western Region of Nepal rarely receives medical assistance of any type. Here, the journey would begin where the road ends. In that remote area, a 2-3 day walk from the nearest road, there's no power and no cellular. Villagers lead a subsistence lifestyle and quality healthcare is non-existent.

I can see the wheels turning in Scott's head as he plans a return expedition to this mystical, vertical land sometime in 2015.

- Jeff Blumenfeld

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