Orange County ophthalmologist performs life-saving cataract surgeries in Nepal

Saturday, July 14, 2018
OC ophthalmologist performs cataract surgeries in Nepal
A UC Irvine ophthalmologist and a team of other doctors worked together to provide cataract surgery to 800 Nepalese people who were blind.

NEPAL (KABC) -- It took Dr. Sanjay Kedhar and a team of ophthalmologists one day of driving and two days of hiking steep cliffs just to reach the Machhakhola Village in Nepal, where 800 people were waiting to receive much-needed eye treatment.

"Blindness in Nepal is almost a death sentence," Kedhar said. "In Nepal, if you can't see, you can't work, and if you can't work, you can't live. For many of these patients, as they get older, they're cast out of the house because there's no support structure for them and they wind up begging, trying to feed themselves."

The documentary "Gorkha: Gift Of Sight" follows the UC Irvine ophthalmologist and Operation Restore Vision as they perform 70 cataract surgeries on patients unable to hike 50 miles to the nearest city, especially with cataracts clouding their vision.

Their most memorable moment was watching a woman who was carried through the mountains on her son-in-law's back, and her smile when her eye bandages were removed after surgery.

In the documentary, you see her smile when doctors ask her to describe her son-in-law's hat. She tells the team his hat is pointy and starts laughing.

"The woman was actually able to see her son-in-law's face, see colors, she was able to throw her cane away and walk out on her own, and this was a woman who for three years had been blind," Kedhar said.

Kedhar said he's also ready to do it again in October. As part of the program, doctors pay for their own travel overseas, but rely on donations for the medical equipment and cataract surgeries. He said they cost $10 - $15 per patient.

"What many of us pay for a lunch or a dinner out at a fast food restaurant, can actually change that person's life," he said.