For years, I traveled to India, Thailand, Indonesia and Kenya to lecture and demonstrate technologically-advanced retina and vitreous surgery at various medical institutions.
On one trip to India, as I was walking to the operating room to perform a difficult retinal surgery, I noticed a hallway filled with about 50 patients waiting to receive cataract surgery. After I had spent over four hours operating on my patient and I was walking back down that hallway, all the patients were long gone. A nurse informed me that those patients had all received cataract surgery and were recovering in the patient ward.
I marveled at how many other patients in that particular clinic waiting room had their sight issues resolved by my associates while I was doing a single surgical procedure. It was then that I realized that high-tech surgery was not the answer to the overwhelming blindness that existed around the world.
That day I discovered that blindness in developing countries is primarily caused by cataracts in adults and Vitamin A deficiency (xerophthalmia) in children. Both kinds of medical intervention at that time cost just $10 per patient. I was astounded! The idea that we could give sight to an individual so quickly and so inexpensively excited me. That compelled me to start the Combat Blindness Foundation, now Combat Blindness International.
I believe it is the responsibility of the fortunate to help the less fortunate. Our work is possible because of the generosity of friends, foundations, corporations and volunteers. The need is great, but so is the reward.
Over the years, I have met many people who are living happier and more fulfilling lives because they’ve received the gift of sight. These grandparents, parents and children inspire me to do more, and I hope that they inspire you. Together, we can be a solution in sight!
Suresh Chandra, M.D. Founder and Chairman • Combat Blindness International