Leaving the comforts of Oregon to embark upon our latest annual philanthropic Eye Camp adventure, this time to Myanmar, we were anticipating that we would conduct cataract operations on 200-250 fellow humans. Upon arriving at the Mandalay airport with 12 duffle bags of equipment, we had a premonition of disquiet (up until 2011 Myanmar was a military dictatorship). Since then, the new government (a nominal civilian government) has loosened controls and now allows foreigners to enter the country more freely. That said, we feared that customs officials may need to line the new government’s national treasury (and possibly themselves in the process) and were nervous that the confiscation of tens of thousands of dollars worth of donated equipment might be a means to do exactly this. Luckily our fears proved to be completely unfounded, as several high ranking monks, and an official who indicated that he was with the treasury, swept us through customs effortlessly. It’s good to have connections in high places!
Outside the airport, we boarded buses for a two-hour ride to where we would conduct our cataract surgeries. It was a hot, muggy Sunday when we arrived at Shwe Yatu Tipitaka Chakkhupala Eye hospital. We screened the pre-ops one more time before we narrowed the
Eye Camp to 91 patients, all with advanced cataracts. The plan was to have two Thai surgeons, Dr Somsran Watanachote and Dr Thuss Sanguansak (Yod) and myself do 50 cases the first day and 41 the next.
We set about with clock-like efficiency staying ahead of schedule. We employed a mixture of both advanced computer-driven and manual techniques (more suited to developing world cataracts) to complete the process. Miraculously, these advanced cataract challenges were addressed without any serious complications. It’s hard to characterize the euphoria from “mission accomplished” in a novel environment.
Much credit goes to Maggie Carlson, Scott Carlson, Marion Taylor, Brook Taylor, Clare Taylor, Misty Kosydar, Django Smith and Joy Haines. Their tireless efforts in logistics and preparation facilitated this highly successful Eye Camp. We also want to thank all the fabulous people from Eugene and around the state/nation/world who donated funds to make this endeavor such a success. Well done!