John Brookes is a consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London who volunteers onboard the Flying Eye Hospital. This is his diary from his latest advernture with ORBIS, saving sight in Kolkata, India.
You can get live updates direct from the field with our volunteers:
Sunday 8th September
Arriving in India at 4am on Sunday morning was like coming home. This is my sixth trip to India. After all the charity work here the sights and smells are instantly familiar. The airport is already bustling, hot, humid and noisy.
I am excited to be here; glad to be back with ORBIS and back in India. I have always found ORBIS to be a worthy charity; partly because the aim of the organisation is to teach, train and educate local ophthalmologists to continue the work in their local communities. As such, techniques and knowledge can be shared and reach more people, which is sadly needed, especially in this part of the world.
Monday, 9th September (Screening Day)
On my first day in the hospital I had several patients waiting for screening, all with glaucoma. Many children with glaucoma present very late, which limits what we can do to help. These young children have more of a chance, as they seem to have been caught very early. I’m struck by how well behaved the children are during the examination. No tears, no tantrums.
Tuesday, 10th September (Flying Eye Hospital)
I’m always impressed when I see the ORBIS plane. It’s quite a majestic thing to see, especially when you consider what goes on inside.
My first case is a six year old girl with glaucoma. Her mother has the same condition and was operated on by ORBIS volunteers, when the plane was in Kolkata in 1993. Her mother has done outstandingly well, her glaucoma has been stable ever since. She even brought with her a photograph of herself as a child, with the ORBIS volunteers; a true success story. I only hope I can give her daughter a similar result.
Wednesday, 11th September (Flying Eye Hospital)
This morning I saw a girl who has very severe glaucoma. She is only 11 years old and has a rare form of the condition. She broke my heart! She was wheeled into the operating theatre and was obviously trying to be very brave and trying desperately not to cry. When the mask was placed over her mouth and nose, tears started to flow down her cheeks but she still did not make a sound. A tear filled my eye at her bravery. The surgery went well and hopefully this will have given her a chance of sight. I think it’s what ORBIS is all about.
Thursday, 12th September (Regional Institute of Ophthalmology)
Working today at the host hospital, I met the hands-on trainees in the outpatient clinic to review the postop patients. I’m glad to say that all the children I operated on were doing well.
More surgeries in the afternoon, including a two month old baby girl with glaucoma. The surgery is going to be broadcast live to the local trainee doctors in another room so they can observe the techniques we are using.
Friday, 13th September Get updates direct from the field with our volunteers:
We travelled to the clinic to see the patients who were operated on yesterday who all looked fine. Then we had the presentation of the prized Flying Eye Hospital wings pin badge (given to each volunteer). The week has gone so quickly, all went to plan; all surgeries went well and I met a lot of very good people. Tomorrow we head home after a busy, successful week restoring sight. care centre.