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Dec 13, 2011 4:39 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Local Doctors Save Sight On Nepal Mission

Dec 20, 2011 2:39 PM

Amid a backdrop of a glassy lake and mountain peaks buffeted by Himalayan winds, a team of doctors on a recent medical mission to Nepal was treated to plenty of picture-perfect vistas.

But most the eye-opening sights for this group, largely composed of ophthalmologists, could be found within the spartan walls of the Himalaya Eye Hospital.

From the Tibetan monk in his 20s who had his vision restored after 10 to 15 years of blindness, to the woman who shed tears after having her sight restored—an act saving her from having to wander off into the woods and be on her own, as per the local custom for elders who have gone blind—the feats performed by the members of Operation Restore Vision were touching, according to one of the group’s youngest members, Dr. Max Spektor.

A 28-year-old first-year surgical resident at Southampton Hospital on his first medical mission, Dr. Spektor does not yet have a specialty, but he performed two minor surgeries on the 10-day trip to the central Asian nation, from which the group returned on November 20.

“Coming from America, having had this excellent training with all these excellent instruments that they don’t have over there, we can really make a difference in terms of what their patient outcomes are,” said Dr. Spektor, an East Quogue resident.

Operation Restore Vision is “one of the most highly trained and diversified ophthalmic medical teams in the world, representing all the ophthalmology sub-specialities, according to its director, Dr. Ronald Gentile, a prominent surgeon who spends summers and weekends in the Old Harbor Colony section of Hampton Bays.

The group falls under the umbrella nonprofit organization International Surgical Mission Support, which was founded and chaired by Southampton Village resident and Southampton Hospital surgeon Dr. Medhat Allam. ISMS seeks to reach out to the medically underprivileged abroad on regular medical missions.

Operation Restore Vision seeks to restore vision and prevent blindness in underdeveloped and poor countries. It provides free eye care and trains local medical professionals in the countries they visit to carry on their work, Dr. Gentile said.

In Nepal, members performed sight-saving surgery and other treatments on more than 100 patients with conditions such as congenital glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration and retinal detachments.

“Their laboratory is one room with one microscope and one set of slides,” Dr. Spektor noted of the Himalaya Eye Hospital in the central city of Pokhara. Although the operating room, he said, was “surprisingly modern,” many doctors in Nepal do not have the expertise to use certain types of equipment that they do have, much of it donated.

For example, Dr. Spektor explained, his team had brought a vitrectomy machine, which is used to remove eyeball fluids before surgery. It uses nitrogen, but local doctors were not familiar with the device and had not used it—instead, they mistakenly provided the visiting doctors with highly corrosive and explosive nitrous oxide, Dr. Spektor explained, which they knew not to use.

Without strict laws governing patient privacy, the doctors found themselves surrounded by dozens of spectators during their surgeries in Nepal. Many onlookers were other hospital patients, Dr. Spektor said.

Despite the medical insights gleaned from the trip and the realization to expect the unexpected, the most illuminating part for Dr. Spektor was the kindness of the Nepalese people.

“We came in as foreigners and they greeted us as friends,” he said with a smile.

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How wonderful to know that these doctors, our neighbors, are such wonderful and caring people. God Bless Them!!!
By baywoman (162), southampton on Dec 13, 11 9:48 PM