After a 7 hour flight from Aleppo, Syria, the ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital landed in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Many familiar faces anxiously await our arrival. Airport representatives and delegates from the Minstry of Health are on hand to welcome us. A reunion among old friends and the introduction of new ones takes place on the tarmac under the warm East African sun.
The reception is brief. There's work to be done. While in flight, gurneys are strapped down. Fragile ophthalmic equipment is packed into padded cases, which are then secured to the floor or stored in cargo compartments. It's now time to unpack and set-up the hospital. Tasked with specific assignments, the medical team beginis sterilizing the operating and recovery rooms while the biomedical engineers carefully assemble the microscopes and lasers. All others, myself included, pitch in to move boxes, mount cameras and telephones, restock medical supplies and transform the passenger cabin into a classroom.
Four hours later, the Flying Eye Hospital is ready. In two days time, we will welcome more than 40 ophthalmologists on board eager to learn new skills in glaucoma, oculoplastics and pediatric cataracts. But first, it's off tomorrow morning to the Mulhimbili National Hospital to select the patients who will receive free eye surgeries and laser treatments.