15 minutes to cure blindness: a story from the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation

Dolma is screened by Dr Ruit of the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation

In Solukhumbu, ahead of a high-volume cataract outreach surgery camp by the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation, eye health personnel are making sure that no cataract patient will miss out on the opportunity of receiving free cataract surgery. They have mobilized their resources near and far. It is not long before a call comes in with information about a cataract patient who is living across the hill, whose family do not have the resources to bring her to the eye camp.

The distance between Roshi Dada, where cataract patient Dolma Tamang lives, and Phaplu, where the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation cataract outreach surgical camp is being held, is not more than 2 kilometers as the crow flies. But access is only by a dirt track and by crossing the raging Solu River.

Dolma did not have the resources to travel for treatment for cataract blindness.

Not ones to be deterred by a challenge, a medical team led by Dr. Sagar Ruit headed to the location — with a space in their jeep to bring the patient back. The jeep, after fording its way through the gushing river and navigating the poorly built dirt track, reaches a point where it can go no further. From thereon, the medical team has to hike for another half an hour.

After reaching Dolma Tamang’s home, Dr. Sagar Ruit duly checks her eyes, and determines that she indeed needs surgery to cure her cataracts. She had been living with cataract blindness for a little more than 2 years and had lost all hope of ever seeing again.

Speaking to the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation team, she says that she can’t do much around the house. She just sits in the small patio and listens to the sounds coming from inside and outside the house.

Dolma’s daughter helps her other get ready for a life changing trip to cure her blindness.

Whilst her daughter readies Dolma Tamang, the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation team take in the natural beauty around them. Lush green and beautiful hills surround them, and a gentle wind refreshes them from the tiredness of climbing up the hill to reach Dolma’s remote home.

Just as Dolma is ready, her son, who is working in the nearby field, is called out for. Dolma’s son will have to carry Dolma on his back for the hike back to where the jeep is stopped.

Dolma’s son carrier his mother on his back for the treck down the inaccessible hillside.

Dolma and her son, her daughter, and the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation medical team form a single line to follow the narrow trail out of the house and back to the jeep. They then make the bumpy ride back to Phaplu.

The next day, Dolma’s eyes are operated upon by the world leading eye surgeon — Dr. Sanduk Ruit. Having already cured over 300,000 people from cataract blindness during his career, the surgeon skilfully removes both her cataracts and inserts intra-ocular lenses. Within 15 minutes, Dolma is being bandaged.

After a good night’s rest — the next morning, Dolma patiently sits with others who, like her, have had their eyes operated upon to cure cataracts. She can listen to other patients’ emotions — happiness after being able to see after so many years. Finally, when her turn comes, and she slowly opens her eyes — she is completely surprised to be able to see again.

Dolma gets used to being able to see again with the support of Dr Sanduk Ruit.

She sees the doctor first, and then her daughter, and dozens of other patients around her — it indeed is a happy moment.

For the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation however, their responsibility isn’t over yet. They have to arrange for her to be sent back home just like she was brought here.

A Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation team accompany her for the trip back to her home. They notice that Dolma can now easily walk alongside them. She does not need to be carried any more.

For more pictures of the lives that are being transformed thanks to surgical interventions to cure blindness, please follow the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation on Instagram at : https://www.instagram.com/tejkohliruit/

The Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation is working to screen 1,000,000 and to cure 300,000 people of cataract blindness in the world’s poorest communities by 2026.