May 2nd, 2013
Forty-three people had their sight restored yesterday afternoon. They didn’t know that, at least not with certainty, until this morning when their bandages were taken off. Forty - three people sitting in two lines in the morning sun; most with one bandage over an eye, some with two bandages. A few very young; most older. Ophthalmic assistants move down the line removing the bandages. Drs. Pant and Khadka follow behind with a portable slit lamp examining each patient in turn. Every surgery was a success. The patients blink a few times in the bright sun. Some smile, some simply gather their belongings and stand up to have their vision tested and receive their antibiotics and sunglasses. Most of these people will travel for two days to return home – some will need to travel as long as four days. One elderly man is quite animated. He hadn’t told anyone where he was going or what he was doing so his return home will bring both relief and joy. As one group of patients are released another line forms at the registration desk. It is much quieter than yesterday but still 22 patients are scheduled for surgery. Three young boys with albinism came to the clinic. All three are from the same family and all suffer from severe low vision. Nothing can be done for them but they were each given hats and sunglasses to protect their sensitive eyes and skin from the harsh sun. The eye camp stops for lunch and a quick nap in the shade. Outside the makeshift operating room and beside the patients sitting on the ground waiting their turn for surgery, the ophthalmologist begins his 10 minute hand washing ritual using a bucket of clean water and a cup. Surgeries begin and we wait until tomorrow to finish their stories.