Saving Sight in a Hospital with Wings
By Melissa Bryant
For three decades, ORBIS International’s Flying Eye Hospital has stood as a symbol of hope, progress and compassion for millions of people around the world suffering with debilitating vision impairments. In 2013, the reengineered DC-10 aircraft flew ORBIS’ dedicated surgical staff to some of the most exotic locations, such as India’s lush valleys and Cameroon’s majestic mountains, where 90 percent of the world’s visually impaired live. Their mission: To treat as many patients and educate as many local healthcare professionals as possible in a three- to four-week timespan using a state-of-the-art, fully functional hospital with wings.
Aboard The Flying Eye Hospital
ORBIS’ Flying Eye Hospital is the world’s only airborne ophthalmic training facility equipped with a laser treatment room, an operating room, a recovery room and a 48-seat multimedia classroom. Onboard the high-tech cockpit, ORBIS medical experts provide lectures, case discussions and surgical simulations, as well as live broadcasts and demonstrations of surgical procedures. ORBIS trains local ophthalmologists in order to leave medical staff with every tool they will need to perform future operations once the visiting physicians leave.
Before local ophthalmologists perform on real patients, they practice by operating on a simulator. One simulator tests trainees on how well they can remove a cataract— a gradual clouding of eye lens (cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in many third-world countries). Trainees use an electronic tool with a mock patient to remove a synthetic cataract. If trainees score satisfactory, they can move on to a real patient inside the operating room (OR). Inside the OR, broadcasting through a two-way audio-visual system that transmits to a classroom, the operating physician walks trainees through a procedure. The medical professionals can hear and ask questions as the surgery takes place. Treating and teaching ensures that ORBIS’ efforts are productive and sustainable. Of course, this is all possible thanks to ORBIS’ dedicated team of traveling physicians.
Advocates for Sight
Every nurse, doctor, anesthesiologist and biomedical engineer at ORBIS volunteers time and service free of charge — sometimes working 50 weeks out of a year — for gratitude no amount of money could buy.
“Our patients are able to see the effects of their surgeries immediately,” said Ahmed Gomaa, Medical Director of the Flying Eye Hospital. “The smile on their faces is the biggest reward we can get after a long working day on the Flying Eye Hospital.”
For more information about ORBIS, go to www.orbis.org.