By: Perry Athanason
“Do we have extra large scrubs?” I heard somebody say from the recovery room. The booming voice did not leave me guessing who was going into surgery.
Like Syria’s religious and political leaders of the present, ORBIS’ own Bruce Johnson witnessed a cornea surgery aboard the Flying Eye Hospital. Bruce did not simply sit in the classroom enjoying the view from the screen used for teaching. He traded his flight wings for surgical scrubs and joined volunteer faculty member, Dr. Jonathon Song, in the ORBIS operating theatre to witness the operation first hand. “For me, this is one of the most interesting things I have ever done,” he commented upon exiting the operating theatre. “Watching a cornea transplant was no doubt quite amazing and I am impressed by the level of minute detail that each of the medical professionals practiced during this surgery.”
Pulling off his surgical mask and gown, his eyes expressed amazement for the experience he had just had and, as so many before him, his perception was forever changed.
“I knew the eye is delicate, but I used to think it extremely so. After watching this surgery, I learned it is not as delicate as it seems to be”, he said with a lighthearted chuckle. “I think every profession has its level of required detail, but when you have the quality of life and safety of a person in your hands, that level of detail, and its importance for professional care and detail, skyrocket”, he added.
Bruce Johnson started with ORBIS in 2005 but confesses that, until now, he never truly understood the magnitude of what a Flying Eye Hospital program delivers to its many hospital partners around the world. Knowing that the Flying Eye Hospital provided free surgical care to thousands of people worldwide, he saw first-hand the foundation of ORBIS’ mission to fight preventable blindness…the continuing medical education of ORBIS partners around the world.
“Watching during clinic as our volunteer faculty discussed each case in length, providing not only a thorough exam for the patient, but making sure that each trainee doctor understood each case and asked all the questions needed to make an informed decision on how to approach the specific eye disease and to further care for the patient,” he said.
Bruce’s passion for ORBIS’ work does not exist solely for professional reasons, his youngest son had amblyopia and says that being at the local hospital, and on the plane, surrounded by kids and their guardian, is something he can relate to. His personal experience combined with time spent in the classroom, as well as experiencing the participation of local doctors, during both the live surgical demonstrations and the didactic lectures by the volunteer faculty, was something that made him further acknowledge the mission of building capacity and offering sub-specialty eye care training to medical professionals.
“From the local hospital to the Flying Eye Hospital classroom to the laser and operating rooms to the recovery and sub-sterilization rooms, seeing the training was very interesting. However impressive the training or surgeries or enthusiasm of the local hosts and partners, there is one aspect of this program that I will remember the most…the people whose lives we help make better, especially the children. It is very hard to see the desperation of a child with blindness or low vision. Knowing that we are providing help to that child in hopes of creating a better future is something that stays with you always”, he concluded.
A huge thank you to Bruce Johnson who attended or participated and definitely helped in each aspect including screening day, program ceremonies, visits from government officials, surgery, training, community outreach programs and life working in the field with the staff…(well, he didn’t help with surgery or medical training).
Photos by Perry Athanason