The question is what to get you for Christmas? I was walking in the snow and remembered the title of a book of short stories I adore, “A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You,” by Amy Bloom. I considered getting the book for you, but you aren’t reading so much any more. Then, I got it. The idea!
There’s an organization here in Vermont created by two intrepid ophthalmologists, Dr. Sanduk Ruit (a Nepali) and Dr. Geoff Tabin (an American), called the Himalayan Cataract Project. Their goal is to eradicate as much unnecessary blindness in their lifetimes as possible.“In the Himalaya region, blindness is a death sentence. People long thought that as you grow old, your hair turns white, your eyes turn white and you die.” — HCP Co-director Dr. Geoff Tabin
You love the Himalayas, Dad. You visited Nepal before most people even knew it existed. And you went there on an adventure to meet the famous tiger-hunter, entrepreneur, Russian-exile Boris Lissanevitch at his Yak & Yeti hotel and restaurant. Boris’ only request of you is that you bring a case of whiskey. And you did. In exchange, you got to hear his stories at the bar until late in the night. You also love the history of the Sherpa people, and respect their struggles and successes. Sir Edmund Percival Hillary could not have climbed Everest without Tenzing Norgay.
Dr. Ruit was the first Nepali doctor to perform cataract surgery with intraocular lens implants and the first to pioneer a method for delivering high-quality microsurgical procedures in remote eye camps. Ruit was continually innovating. His ingenuity allowed for a sutureless form of surgery that was safe, high quality, high-volume and inexpensive. In the face of heavy skepticism from other doctors in the field, Dr. Ruit tirelessly worked to prove that high quality care could be successfully delivered in places considered squalid by western standards. As a tribute to his remarkable achievements, Dr. Ruit has received some of the highest awards in the field of international health possible. Dr. Ruit helped found the Tilganga Eye Centre in 1994. Tilganga treats 2,500 patients a week and surgery fees are waived for the neediest. Because many of the poor and blind cannot make it to Kathmandu, Dr. Ruit reaches out to them by trekking into remote parts of Nepal and throughout the Himalayas.
So, Dr. Bercaw, for your Christmas this year, I have donated $20 to the Himalayan Cataract Project which covers the cost of one sight-restoring surgery.
Because of how much I love you, a blind man will see.