“Nothing short of a miracle” – Curing blindness in Dormaba, Nepal
In March 2022, the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation, in collaboration with the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, staged a cataract microsurgical camp in Doramba, Nepal. This turned out to be one of the biggest outreach camps held in the mountainous regions of Nepal.
In total there were 333 patients with nine of them being completely blind. Following the mass surgeries, each patient went home with restored sight. Although the microsurgical camp was held on the 18th, 19th and 20th of March, preparations for the ‘mega camp’, which is now being labelled as the “Doramba Model”, were underway from as early as February.
The Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation dispatched a medical team to screen patients from all corners of the district and a total of 16 screening camps across the hills surrounding Doramba were organised. The Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation screened 3,251 patients of which 333 patients were identified in need of cataract surgery, and were then invited for free surgery in Doramba.
On the 17th of March, buses full of patients along with their caretakers began arriving at the camp. Amongst them were Krishna Bahadur Majhi, Putali Basel, Maichang Tamang, Charke Thami, Jagat Bahadur Tamang, Min Bahadur Tamang, and Lopsang Tamang, who were living with bilateral cataracts and were completely blind. With little means to afford surgery and the closest eye centre with an operating facility being almost a day’s drive away, the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation’s presence in Doramba was the closest opportunity they had to cure their blindness.
The Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation began setting up its makeshift operating theatre in a classroom inside a local school. On the morning of the 18th, surgeries promptly began and patients were ushered into the operating theatre as Dr Sanduk Ruit and Dr Sagar Ruit performed surgery after surgery using Dr Ruit’s innovative small-incision cataract surgery method.
Dr Ruit, who has performed over 130,000 cataract surgeries across his career, performed his seven-minute miracles with great precision. On the first day, the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation performed 141 surgeries.
On the second day of the microsurgical camp, Tej Kohli visited the microsurgical camp in Doramba to witness the miracles for himself, and to take stock of the impact that his interventions have been making in improving communities and changing lives. In the small operating theatre, he watched Dr Ruit remove both cataracts from Krishna Bahadur Majhi and Putali Basel’s eyes. “Nothing short of a miracle”, uttered Mr Kohli as he watched the surgeries take place.
The next day, Dr Ruit and Mr Kohli collectively removed the patches off of each of the 333 patients gathered at the camp. The truest and the purest emotions of the camp were perhaps after Dr Ruit and Mr Kohli removed the patches off Maichang Tamang’s eyes. Her son, who had been with her during the entirety of the camp, could not control his tears after his mother recognised him, and told him she could see clearly again.
Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide, accounting for more than fifty per cent of the world’s blind and visually impaired. A staggering 90% of the world’s cataract blind live in the developing world, and continue to be needlessly blind due to extreme poverty.
Dr Sanduk Ruit has been on a lifelong mission to end this chain of poverty-induced cataract blindness and has dedicated over 30 years of his career to perfecting a cataract surgical delivery system, and taking the technology to the world’s most underserved communities.
With his new partnership with Mr Kohli, he expects to amplify his work by expanding his efforts to some of the most underserved communities across the world.
Mr Kohli, after witnessing the transformation of the people and communities, was further reinforced in his belief that taking sight restoration programs such as the Doramba Outreach Camp would transform communities. Incidentally, the Doramba camp also marked the one-year anniversary of the formation of the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation. In the past year, the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation has been able to screen 128,094 and cure 13,659 of blindness.
Their journey to screen one million and cure between 300,000 to 500,000 by 2030 continues, and immediately after the Doramba camp, the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation performed 305 life-transforming cataract surgeries in Nijgad, Nepal.
The Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation is a restricted fund operating under the auspices of Prism The Gift Fund, registered UK charity number 1099682.