Life in the hills of Nepal can be extremely challenging, with essential resources not readily available. Despite the scenic beauty that Nepal's hills have to offer, many people living in these areas are mostly hidden from the world. Adding a family member suffering from an ailment such as cataract blindness only exacerbates the situation, making survival itself a challenge.
Wana Village, located deep in the beautiful eastern hills of Nepal, is no exception to this. Residents of Wana wake up with the sun to go about their day, never wasting a single hour of daylight. From sunrise to sunset, the community can be seen working in the fields, feeding their cattle, fetching water, and repairing their homes. Almost every adult who is fit to work in Wana is occupied.
Shanti Maya Tamang, a resident of Wana, has been living with cataract blindness for two years. With her blurred vision, she can only see light through her eyes. Prior to her blindness, Shanti Maya was an active woman who would care for her cattle, fetch water, cook meals, and care for the household while helping in the fields. This allowed her husband, Shakti, to pick up jobs around the village and help where needed.
However, with Shanti Maya's blindness, hard times have fallen upon the family. The struggle is visually evident - her house is in need of urgent repair, there's less food on Shanti Maya's plate than her neighbours’, and her clothes seem more worn out than others in the village. Shakti is now responsible for all the household responsibilities, and the family has fallen into the trap of extreme poverty.
Shanti Maya tries to help, but with her blindness, she has to move with the help of her hand, only within the periphery of her home. If she ventures a little further off, she risks falling down and injuring herself, which has happened four times since she became blind. The family doesn’t have the money to cure Shanti Maya, and they can't even imagine making the twelve-hour journey to the city to have her eyes checked.
Fortunately, when Shakti heard of a Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation eye screening camp arriving in their village, his eyes lit up. The camp would only be a three-hour journey from their home, meaning Shakti could ensure his wife was safe.
A team from the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology led by Dr. Sanduk Ruit arrived in Basantapur, and overnight, the Shri Basanta Higher Secondary School was converted into an eye clinic, with classrooms serving as spaces for biometry tests, an anesthesiology room, and a temporary operating theatre. Early morning the next day, patients began to arrive. In preparation for the camp, a total of 2218 people were screened from across the hills, with more than 200 people found to be living with cataracts and invited for their free surgery.
Inside the operating room, Dr. Ruit and Dr. Hom Gurung skillfully cured the patients waiting for their surgery. Shanti Maya was scheduled to undergo surgery on the first day, but in the morning, as she tried to go to the toilet unaccompanied, she fell into a ditch and injured her leg. She had to get five stitches, and her surgery was postponed until the next day.
The following morning, after a successful day one of the surgeries, Dr. Ruit and Dr. Gurung returned to the theatre, and Shanti Maya was carried in for her surgery, which lasted only fifteen minutes. Dr. Ruit skillfully removed her cataracts, as he has done for more than 100,000 patients in the past three decades in his pursuit to end needless blindness across the developing world.
Find out more about Tej Kohli: Tej Kohli the technologist investing in human triumph, Tej Kohli the philanthropist trying to cure the developing world of cataracts and Tej Kohli the London tycoon with a generous streak.