angel sightings

One Million Surgeries,
Volunteers Carry the Load,
Rural Patients "In the Hands of Angels"

by Harry Goldhagen
Published 12/16/20

Angel Sightings is a periodic collection of stories and articles published on other sites that highlight medical heroes and their work. This collection features the Himalayan Cataract Project, The Carter Center, and Angel Flights NE.

Please share any heroes you come across here.

Over One Million Surgeries Performed

Dr. Tabin and patient
Dr. Tabin and patient (HCP)

The Himalayan Cataract Project (HCP) announced that, together with its global partners, it has performed over one million sight-restoring surgeries. Founded 25 years ago by Drs. Geoff Tabin and Sanduk Ruit, this Vermont-based company pioneered a low-cost, high-volume surgical technique that can be conducted in non-hospital settings. HCP and its partners have brought life-changing eye care to more than 20 countries throughout Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, with a focus on training local personnel, leveraging partnerships, and enhancing local eye care infrastructure.

"When someone is cured of cataracts, they are no longer a statistic. They are able to get their life back," Dr. Tabin said. "We have succeeded beyond my wildest expectations, but we still have a long way to go. When we started the HCP, there was an overwhelming cataract problem in Nepal which we thought would take a lifetime to overcome; and now there is a fully mature eye care system and ophthalmology training program. Our work has spread across the world. As we look ahead, there are still 17 million people in the world blind from cataracts. Blindness is a problem we can win -- treatable blindness is low-hanging fruit of global public health."

Read the full article here.

An article from 2018 on NPR: A 4-Minute Surgery That Can Give Sight To The Blind

An article from 2015 by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times: In 5 Minutes, He Lets the Blind See

Where the Road Ends, Volunteers Carry the Load

Offre willingly walks for hours at a time across the roadless mountains of Haiti
Offre willingly walks for hours at a time across the roadless mountains of Haiti (Carter Center)

Community volunteers play a vital role in the treatment and eradication of tropical diseases. The Carter Center, which has programs to treat six preventable diseases (Guinea worm, river blindness, trachoma, schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis, and malaria in Hispaniola), has honored the work of one of their volunteers, 27-year-old Offre (pronounced "Off").

"Today I will walk almost five hours to retrieve blood samples from the team in the field," Offre says. The specimens, which will be tested for indications of malaria, will be handed off to him by an equally committed volunteer who has walked a similar distance from the opposite direction. Neither one knows what the other looks like, and they don’t have cellphone service in the high country where they trek.

"It is done by faith," Offre says. "I will just watch for someone carrying a box of blood samples, and that person will look for someone who looks like he’s on his way to meet someone."

In addition to transporting blood samples, Offre promotes community engagement and mobilization aimed at educating the public and encouraging healthful behaviors.

Read the full article here.

Maine's Rural Patients Put Their Health "In the Hands of Angels"

Kenn Ortmann poses beside his plane
Kenn Ortmann poses beside his plane (Photo by: Kendra Caruso / VillageSoup)

For many people, especially those in remote, small towns and rural areas, half the challenge of accessing medical care is the travel.

Paula Dougherty, of Morrill, Maine, is in remission from stage four bladder cancer, but she still needs to be seen regularly by her doctors in Boston. She can fly out of Belfast, Maine in small planes because of generous pilots who volunteer through Angel Flight NE. The trip would otherwise require her to drive five hours and find a place to stay overnight before driving another five hours home after treatment.

Daugherty lives alone and does not have any relatives living nearby, so the organization has been like a family to her. She thinks the flights are emotionally uplifting, and all the pilots are skilled. "There's so many kind people and the pilots are just terrific," she said. "They are willing to help out and do not feel burdened by it, which is just amazing to me.... I just feel as though my health is in the hands of angels."

Kenn Ortmann has completed over 100 flights with the organization, and Francis Albert has flown more than 10 relief flights to deliver COVID-19 supplies to hospitals and Native American tribes. They fly all over Maine to transport people with serious medical problems to appointments. For some of the organization's patients, Angel Flight is their only way to reach medical attention they cannot get locally.

Read the full article here.

About Angels in Medicine

Angels in Medicine is a volunteer site dedicated to the humanitarians, heroes, angels, and bodhisattvas of medicine. The site features physicians, nurses, physician assistants and other healthcare workers and volunteers who reach people without the resources or opportunities for quality care, such as teens, the poor, the incarcerated, the elderly, or those living in poor or war-torn regions. Read their stories at www.medangel.org.

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