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The “Barefoot Surgeon” Restores the Vision of More Than 100,000 People For Free

Ann Moises

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The World Health Organization reported that approximately 39 million people are suffering from blindness worldwide. Although almost 80% have eye conditions that can be cured and prevented, 90% of these people come from low-income families and cannot afford treatment.

This touched the heart of Dr. Sanduk Ruit, a renowned and well-respected, 60-year old ophthalmologist from Nepal.

Dr. Sanduk Ruit, the Nepalese eye doctor hailed as a miracle worker.

Dr. Ruit knew how it was like to live in poverty. He grew up in a very remote village in the Himalayas where one has to walk for a week to reach the nearest school. When his sister died of tuberculosis despite the fact that it’s already a curable disease, the loss he experienced ignited his heart and soul to serve other people.

He decided to choose a path that would be beneficial for others, not just for himself.
Nepal God of Sight
Photo credit: Gemunu Amarasinghe/denverpost.com

“As sad as this might sound, you realize that life is short and unpredictable. Death is a great teacher. It reminds you, almost mockingly, that everyone is stamped with an expiration date. I am a mortal being after all. I have to do what I do best to give people a better shot at life. I have to do it before my time comes.”

Dr. Sanduk Ruit dedicated his life to holistic eye care.
check-up
Photo credit: hollows.org
He developed a safe and efficient technique to remove cataracts in just five minutes.
patients-in-line
Photo credit: The Fred Hollows Foundation/Penny Bradfield

This consequently allowed him to operate on numerous patients in just a short period of time. He also teaches his method to other eye surgeons. He traveled to Asia, Africa, and even in North Korea in the past 30 years, and had restored the vision of more than 100,000 patients.

Mass eye surgery in Nepal. Patients wait for their eye patches to be removed.
Nepal God of Sight
Photo credit: denverpost.com
Patients sleep on the floor of a small room
Nepal God of Sight
Photo credit: denverpost.com

In 1994, Dr. Ruit collaborated with his mentor and good friend- the late Fred Hollows, an Australian ophthalmologist and philanthropist, and together they established the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology (TIO) or Tilganga Eye Hospital in Kathmandu. TIO has committed to providing world-class eye care to all Nepalese. The institution develops state-of-the-art artificial lenses, which are commonly used for patients with cataracts or myopia. The lenses are also exported to over 30 countries around the world.

The Tilganga Eye Hospital in Kathmandu that Dr. Ruit established.
tilganga
Photo credit: Michael Amendolia

There are numerous people in Nepal who do not have access to health care facilities in their areas and have never seen a doctor before. Together with his team, Dr. Ruit has been conducting mobile eye camps to reach the rural areas of Nepal and its neighboring countries. They trek for several days and clear out unusual places such as classrooms, tents, and even animal stables to serve as temporary operating rooms.

He treated his patients without considering if they can pay him or not.
in-tilganga
Photo credit: Michael Amendolia
Most patients like Raj Kaliya Dhanuk, has never seen a doctor before.
woman
Photo credit: Gemunu Aramarasinghe/denverpost.com

Almost 500 other patients have traveled by bike, motorbike, bus, or are even carried by their relatives for days just to reach Dr. Ruits mobile eye camp.

Massive tent outside the Hetauda community eye hospital, 18 miles south of Kathmandu.
Nepal God of Sight
Photo credit: Gemunu Amarasinghe
Monks sit among a group of people waiting to remove their bandages following cataract surgery.

It only takes him five minutes to perform cataract surgeries that will forever change the lives of his patients. One including an 80-year old North Korean who saw his son again after 10 years of being completely blind. Australian photographer Michael Amendolia, who had been travelling with Dr. Ruit and his colleagues since 1990, captured the heartwarming moment on camera.

This 80-year old North Korean father sees son after 10 years of being blind.
in-north-korea
Photo credit: Micheal Amendolia

Vision test after the surgery.

eye-test
Photo credit: hollows.org
Patient reaches for Dr. Ruit’s nose after her eye patch was removed to prove that she can now see him.
Nepal God of Sight
Photo credit: Gemunu Amarasinghe

Michael Amendolia described Dr. Ruit as a “Maverick” while others regard him as a “God of Sight”.  All these titles encapsulate the man that he is- a good, kind-hearted doctor who live to serve those in need. He could be richer and be able to live a more luxurious lifestyle, but instead he chose to stay in Nepal and trek along the most remote places in the world to reach the poorest communities and give them back the gift of sight.

“My idea of success is not calculated in money one earns but in the lives that one has influenced.” – Dr. Sanduk Ruit

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The Barefoot Surgeon: The Inspirational Story of Dr Sanduk Ruit, the Eye Surgeon Giving Sight and Hope to the World's Poor
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The Barefoot Surgeon: The Inspirational Story of Dr Sanduk Ruit, the Eye Surgeon Giving Sight and Hope to the World's Poor
  • Gripper, Ali (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 304 Pages - 10/01/2019 (Publication Date) - Allen & Unwin (Publisher)
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