It takes Sanduk Ruit about five minutes to change someone’s life.
In that time, the Nepalese doctor can make a small incision in his patient’s eye, remove the cloudy cataract impairing her vision and replace it with an inexpensive artificial lens.
For many patients, it’s the first time they’ve seen in years, if not decades.
In the past 30 years, Ruit has personally restored the sight of more than 100,000 people across Asia and Africa, and taught his rapid-fire technique to countless other eye surgeons in parts of the world as isolated as North Korea.
His patients suffer from eye conditions that are mostly preventable. But because of poverty and limited access to public health services they have been unable to seek treatment.
Their story is all too common in the developing world. An estimated 39 million people are blind worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Of these, around 90% live in low-income areas and 80% suffer from conditions that can be prevented or cured.
Driven by a belief that the world’s poorest people deserve safe, affordable and high-quality eye care just as much as anyone else, Ruit has made it his mission to eradicate avoidable blindness.
In 1994, he joined the late Australian ophthalmologist and philanthropist Fred Hollows, who was his mentor and close friend, in establishing Tilganga — an eye hospital in Kathmandu dedicated to providing world-class eye care to the people of Nepal.
Dr Ruit’s ingenuity allowed for a sutureless form of surgery that was safe, high quality, high-volume and inexpensive. In the face of heavy skepticism from other doctors in the field, Dr. Ruit tirelessly worked to prove that high quality care could be successfully delivered in places considered squalid by western standards.
The hospital manufactures state-of-the-art lenses that are commonly used in treating cataracts or myopia, and exports them to more than 30 countries worldwide.
Tilganga treats 2,500 patients a week and surgery fees are waived for the neediest.
For those who cannot reach urban areas, Ruit and his team conduct mobile eye camps in remote parts of Nepal and neighboring countries, often trekking for days and cleaning out structures like tents, classrooms or even animal stables for use as temporary operating theaters.
When the eye patches come off the day after an operation, it’s an incredibly moving moment for all involved.
Photo credit The Himalayan Cataract Project
Donating $25 to The Himalayan Cataract Project, a charitable organisation co-founded by Dr.Ruit to support his work, you can radically improve a human life through the gift of sight-restoring cataract surgery.