A story about the effort of few passionate doctors and the impact of low cost cataract surgery in underdeveloped countries.
Nepal, 8th March 2007. After a strenuous journey from Frankfurt to Kathmandu, one stop-over in Bahrain and more than 16 hours of delay, we finally managed to collect our luggage and pass uncontrolled through customs. With us we carry two laptop-computers and other items that we collected for the Tilganga Eye Center. We are nervous to meet, for the first time, the people we had been emailing for so long. The organizers for the surgical eye camp we helped to sponsor with the support of Henkel.
Ripun Dahal and Khem Gurung, pick us up, and drive us directly to the Tilganga Eye Center where we will meet the members of staff and where our journey in this, to us, completely new dimension begins.
Not far away from the holiest site in Nepal, the Pashupatinath temple, where Hindus cremate the bodies of their deceased relatives, a small group of ophthalmologists, surgeons and nurses try to make a difference. They dedicate their lives to alleviating blindness in Nepal and the Himalayan region.
During the last twelve years, the Tilganga Eye Hospital developed itself into a self sustaining, ophthalmic service provider. Co-director, Dr. Sanduk Ruit, leads a small team of ophthalmic surgeons and glaucoma experts who provide health services to over 600 patients daily in Kathmandu. In a country where health insurance is not a known concept, the Tilganga Eye Center developed a process for sustainable social services providing eye-healthcare at outstanding levels. People who can afford to pay for the service are asked for a minimum contribution, while others, not fortunate enough to have the financial means, may be visited and cured at free of cost.
?It?s all about passion and thinking straight? explains Dr. Ruit.
Cataract blindness is caused when the natural lens of the eye degenerates, causing gradual loss of vision and ultimately blindness. It still is the leading cause for blindness in underdeveloped countries. A number of factors make cataract blindness ten times worse in the Himalaya region when compared to western countries. This includes increased exposure to ultraviolet light, poor nutrition, disease and other aspects related to the living conditions.
Text: Stefano Levi