Beeba Kooner is a registered nurse in the state of Florida. Her father, Dr. Karanjit Kooner, an ORBIS Volunteer Faculty member, invited her to spend one week volunteering with ORBIS in Lanzhou, China with the ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital (FEH). This was Beeba’s first experience on the FEH.
My name is Beeba Kooner. My father is an ophthalmologist and has been a volunteer for ORBIS for nearly two decades. In May 2012, I volunteered with ORBIS for the first time and traveled with him to Lanzhou, China. I was very excited to be a part of something my dad spoke so highly about.
The first day, all the volunteers and staff ophthalmologists performed screening consultations to decide who would be good candidates for surgery. It was when I walked into the local eye hospital and saw what seemed like 100 people packed into a tiny hallway that I realized how great the need was for services provided by organizations like ORBIS.
The next day I saw, for the very first time, the Flying Eye Hospital. As staff ran about organizing and setting up the equipment, I marveled at how many countries this airplane visited and how many lives this organization has touched. For the next two days, my dad gave lectures to the doctors and medical students associated with the Lanzhou University Second Hospital and performed surgeries both on the ORBIS plane and at the local hospital.
Something different was going on in every section of the plane. In the front, lectures were given to students and doctors. There were also rooms dedicated to surgery, sterilization, and recovery. Although the plane was divided, the camaraderie and companionship among the ORBIS staff was consistent. The team acted like a family and the genuineness of their relationships positively affected the treatment of their patients. Each patient was cared for with sincere concern and everyone did their best to keep them and their families comfortable. The staff was exceptional, and although they were probably tired and home sick, their passion for helping others paralleled the “vision” behind ORBIS.
The last day was dedicated to post-op visits. My father operated on a young girl who had a serious case of congenital glaucoma and who, before the surgery, had never opened her eyes. During our last visit, her eyes were bright, open, and happy. To witness this transformation was so touching, and I am incredibly grateful to have been there to see this change.
I completely underestimated the work ORBIS does in changing the lives of others. I knew this organization went to different countries and performed services to help families that couldn’t always afford the care they needed. What I did not know was how much ORBIS did for those that did not have eye diseases. The lectures provided for the students and doctors gave them the latest knowledge and skills to improve healthcare for their patients. Furthermore, the surgeries performed gave more than improved eyesight to patients; it gave them the renewed hope to live out their dreams and have a future. For the patient’s families, the ORBIS program and staff renewed their faith, and the gratitude I saw in their eyes was indescribable. Although I do not know Chinese, the language of happiness is universal, and I saw this joy in patients, families, and ORBIS staff alike.
I believe ORBIS Volunteer Faculty and staff are “called” into this field and circumstance of work. It takes dedication and genuine kindness to spend most of your time and energy traveling, being away from home, and unconditionally giving yourself in the way that they do. Perhaps ORBIS is the answer to their “calling”, and in their heart, they know that the work they do and the lives they change are their purpose in life and exactly where they belong. The efforts which I have seen my father and other ORBIS Volunteer Faculty put in have inspired me to one day take part in the life changing work they do.