In March 2022, the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation staged one of the biggest cataract microsurgical camps ever organised in mountainous Nepal.
The team organised seven screening camps from 15th to 22nd of March focussing especially on reaching out to extremely marginalised communities of the region, as those are the groups that are least likely to afford or access cataract surgery due to their socio-economic status.
The Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation, which has cured over 18,465 people of cataract-induced blindness, is undertaking enormous workloads to reduce extreme poverty and blindness in developing nations. Nepal’s Department of Health Services published a report that showed the barriers to cataract surgery were “affordability, accessibility, lack of felt need, and fear of surgery”, in that order. The Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation eliminates the problem of affordability by providing free surgery and improves accessibility by taking its outreach camps to some of the most underserved regions of Nepal.
2,206 people from three districts, Bara, Rautahat and Parsa, were screened for visual impairments, of which more than 300 patients were identified to have been living with cataract blindness. They were then invited for free surgeries at a Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation microsurgical camp in Nijgad on the 24th, 25th and 26th of March.
Once at Nijgad, the team set up an operating theatre, a biometrics lab, an anaesthetic ward, a sterilisation room, and a post-operative ward, all part of a mobile cataract surgical delivery system perfected by the co-founders Tej Kohli and Dr Sanduk Ruit. Dr Ruit has taken his mobile surgical delivery system to some of the most underprivileged regions in Asia and Africa. Alongside his partner British philanthropist Mr Tej Kohli, Dr Ruit wishes to use his life’s work to cure as many as half a million people of needless blindness by 2030. Mr Kohli is enthusiastic about his partnership with Dr Ruit, and is keen to make the movement a worldwide movement to eliminate needless blindness with an overarching mission to reduce extreme poverty in the developing world.
On the 24th, surgeries were quickly set in motion. Patients, holding their referral papers, began arriving at the camp early. Once the medical team conducted their biometrics, patient after the patient went to the operating theatre. The operating team, led by Dr. Govinda Paudyal, a highly regarded cataract and vitreous-retina surgeon, skillfully removed one cataract after another. In just three days, Dr Paudyal conducted more than 200 cataract surgeries on a total of 305 patients.
Patients were made up of different races and from various communities yet shared the struggle of living a life of needless blindness. Patients included those who were born deaf but only became blind recently. Already living with a hearing impairment, her visual impairment added an extra burden on Kanchi Maya Ghising’s and her family members’ lives. After a successful surgery by Dr Paudyal, she along with her sight also rediscovered her smile.
Along with Kanchi, patients like Junglee Majhi, a member of Rautahat’s Dalit community, whose family has been unable to overcome the cycle of poverty received a second chance at sight. “Yesterday, I was completely blind. At least today I can see this much. I look forward to going home and playing with my grandson with the little bit of sight I have” said Jungalee when seeing his grandson for the first time.
The Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation are continuing on their mission to screen one million and cure between 300,000 – 500,000 of preventable blindness in the developing world. This story, along with many others, showcases what the foundation is constantly achieving. With the goal to screen and cure thousands more, it is clear that the efforts are working well.