Transcript for the hearing impaired:
The Himalaya is the highest mountain range on earth. The world’s tallest hundred mountains are all here, and within these peaks live 70 million people, many at altitudes that pose a threat to the human body.
In the Daramba (sp?) region of Nepal the residents face an insidious threat. Dangerously high levels of harmful UV rays pierce the mountain air and burn people’s eyes.
1:03: and here in the village of Balow (?), 65 y.o. Tatini has paid a heavy price. She’s blind. (she speaks in her native tongue, and the translation is subbed on the screen)… ” 2 years ago I began to lose my sight. then I became completely blind. but there’s no point crying.”
Tatini is determined not to let blindness interfere with her life, but simple tasks such as fetching water now take longer and can be treacherous. Her blindness is caused by cataracts (sound of water running), a fogging of her lenses exacerbated by the intense mountain sun.
2:02- but isolated here in the Himalaya Tatini has no access to medical treatment. Fortunately, an answer to her prayers may be just around the corner. From Katmandu, Dr. Sanduk Ruit has pioneered a method of eye surgery that he brings to the remote corners of the Himalaya. [noises of people talking in native tongue) His mobile clinic brings hope to thousands. (background noise) and today Tatini is setting off to join them.
3:00: she has arranged for the only transportation available to her in these mountains; a friend has offered to carry her ten kilometres to the Daramba clinic.
While Dr. Ruit’s success rate is high there is still a strong chance that Tatini’s eyes are too far gone to be saved. He makes no promises.
Daramba’s school house is now an improvised operating theatre.
4:00- It takes Dr. Ruit just half an hour to remove Tatini’s fogged lenses. He then replaces them with a synthetic lens he manufactures himself. In the west, this operation could cost 8 thousand dollars, but funded by charity, Dr. Ruit doesn’t charge his patients a single rupee.
With surgery now complete, Tatini can only wait.
Just 24 hours after her operation, Tatini joins hundreds of patients, waiting to have their bandages removed, hopefully with her sight restored,
5.00 For Tatini this is the moment of truth
(background music, chatter. The conversation between Dr. Ruit and Tatini is in their native tongue, and is subbed on the screen, but I am transcribing it here, too, just in case that’s easier than going back and forth)
Dr. Ruit: Let’s take a look.
Look at me, look here
do you see?
Tatini: I see, sir.
Dr. Tell me what you see.
Tatini: I see your nose and mouth, Sir!
Dr.: how many fingers am I holding up?
Tatini: Five, sir.
Dr. And now?
Dr. Please touch my nose with your finger.
Dr. Really? (chuckles)
Dr. Please stroke my cheek,
Dr. do it nice and gently
Dr. How was that
Tatini: It’s good,
(laughter, singing, clapping to the dance)
Narrator: For the first time in 3 years Tatini can see
6 minutes: (Tatini is speaking, the translations are also subbed on the screen): May Heaven reward Dr. Ruit! Moments ago I couldn’t see and now I can. Now my problems are gone. my heart is filled with light.
In the Himalayan foothills, modern medicine is helping the lives of the people who live here.
I’m reading Second Suns: Two Doctors and Their Amazing Quest to Restore Sight and Save Lives, a book about the remarkable Dr. Ruit and his incredible work with the blind. He has a moving personal story as well- born in one of the remotest villages of Nepal, he had never seen electricity or a motor vehicle until his father sent him away to a boarding school when he was just 7 years old. He chose to become a doctor because of the suffering he saw his people endure without medical care- including the preventable deaths of three of his five siblings.