Wiping out blindness 1 flight at a time

On the ground it looks like any other DC-10, but inside it's a state of the art Flying Eye Hospital, and a traveling interactive teaching university.

"There is a constant interaction between the surgery that is going on and the participants. They can ask questions and the surgeon can answer the questions," said head nurse, Linda Tranchemontagne.

For the past 30 years, ORBIS International has been flying some of the world's best eye doctors to countries where the lack of care leads to blindness.

"That's the mission here is to teach the other people in those other countries how to do it," said A.L. Ueltschi, ORBIS founder.

On board a surgical simulator and the latest in sight saving technology.

"It is one of the newest treatment modalities for diabetic retinopathy," said an ophthalmologist.

A normal DC-10 contains about 350 seats. But the Flying Eye Hospital has an operating theater with windows for students to look in. It also has a prep and scrubbing room, and a pre-op and post-op recovery room complete with gurneys for patients to check in and out.

Once on the ground in places like Bangladesh, Paraguay, Cuba and China the surgery and teaching begins.

"We record all the surgeries that take place onboard the aircraft. We edit those down and leave those behind for donation tapes for the host doctors," said Gavin Wickham, audio visual technician.

Technicians also install video and communication equipment at host hospitals so U.S. doctors can provide real time surgical advice.

"So this training component and this capacity building evolves in the country so they can take care of the needs on their own," said Ned Cloonan, president.

Next Orbis is setting its sights on helping the needy here at home.

"The time is right we have something to offer and we're gonna try to deliver something to the populations that are not served or under served," said Cloonan.

Corporate sponsors, like FedEx, provide free maintenance, pilots and fuel. But most of the medical staff and technicians volunteer their time.



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