Flying Hospital Treats Inhabitants of the World’s Underserved Regions for Eye Disease

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Many an elusive prospect has become a reality as a result of the many accomplishments made possible throughout out the world with innovations in flight. From space shuttles shooting to beyond the Earth’s atmosphere and spaceship landings on the moon to military endeavors to the movement of passengers or regional airlines all across the globe. And yet the strangest and one of the most fascinating accomplishments in a while has been in the inception of the Orbis’ flying eye hospital.

The flying eye hospital journeys across continents to undeveloped regions and within the borders of countries lacking sufficient eye care resources to provide exams to inhabitants of these and other remote locales. The interior of the eye hospital features an exam room, an operating theater and a waiting room that can safely accommodate up to three patients.

With the added support of California tech companies and local doctors and universities of higher learning, the hospital runs on donations. The facilitators of the flying eye hospital not only allows for the treatment of patients, it’s staff strives to train and inform medical staff in the countries the hospital visits in viable treatment options of eye disease.

Dr. Doug Fredrick, who donates time and services on the flying hospital, has said, “There’s no way that an individual doctor or an individual organization can take care of all of the blindness and vision impairment themselves.”

Fredrick, a pediatric ophthalmologist at Stanford Children’s Hospital, further stated, “However, if you are able to train the local physicians to care for these patients, that’s something that will be sustainable.”

The flying hospital, managed by intercontinental non-profit Orbis International, whose goal is to save eyesight globally, was established onboard a fixed-wing aircraft because, according to Bob Ranck, President and CEO of Orbis, it can access any location that has a runway. Mr. Ranck has said about the flying hospital’s accessibility that in it, “We can go into the mountains of Peru. We can go into the inner countries of Africa.”

Beyond the flying hospital’s capability of making eye treatment available all throughout the world, Dr. Frederick, who traveled to multiple locations on the flying hospital, like China and India has indicated the experience gives him a boost that translates into his everyday life activities. He says since the late 1990’s he has made attempts to travel every year on board the flying eye hospital. On a recent trip to Burma, he and a nurse encountered and treated a 3-month old baby. The baby presented with blindness as a result of cataracts in both eyes. They were able to operate on the baby and upon determining the operation was successful, sent the baby home with his parents. A year later it was determined the baby was doing well running around like a typical toddler with no adverse issue.

Dr. Fredrick said the baby’s father, in a show of gratitude, presented the doctor with a wooden carving featuring a baby that the doctor displays in his office and that he looks at it quite often and reflects on his experience. Of the gesture, Fredrick has said, “It was very emotional.”

The team on aboard the flying hospital come in contact with a wide variety of vision issues including, retinopathy and glaucomas as well as cataracts. The aircraft is equipped with training simulators and surgeries performed on the aircraft are broadcast so local medical professionals, in regions where the hospital makes visits, can watch and learn. Even more amazing the surgeries are live streamed so medical professionals and students throughout the world can watch as well.

Another impressive feature regarding the staff of the flying hospital is that the nurses are trained flight attendants as well as hold nursing degrees.

Nurse Monelle ross has said that her experience on the flying hospital left her with a good feeling. She recalled a boy, a teenager, who had sought treatment on the flying hospital for blindness in both eyes. The boy was from Cameroon and had recently had an accident damaging his retinas and was in need of surgery. Following the surgery when Nurse Ross inquired if he could see again, he responded yes. She said that simple answer is precisely why she does this kind of work. Ross said, “To be able to see the eyes focus on you because they’re seeing you, it’s such a great feeling,” she said.