Madison organization cures cataract blindness for all of Botswana
MADISON, Wis. — Dr. Suresh Chandra is celebrating a milestone in his career. On June 19, he came back to Madison after he oversaw and helped fund the work for surgeons and nurses from Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital to complete 6,000 cataract surgeries in Botswana, making the country cataract blindness-free.
With the help of organizations including Cambridge Global Health Partners in London, Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital in Delhi, PEEK in London and the Botswana Ministry of Health and Wellness, Chandra was able to accomplish this dream.
Cataract is the clouding of the lens of the eye. It accounts for 50 % of all blindness in the world and is especially prevalent in developing countries.
Chandra said Africa only has one eye doctor per 1 million people. Chandra, with the help of his partners, was able to make six trips over the course of three years. Every trip, they were able to complete 1,000 cataract surgeries in four weeks.
But Chandra and his organization have done much more than that.
“I never imagined we would achieve this goal, treating 360,000 cataract patients in the world,” he said. “I never imagined that. It feels good that we have made our contribution to humanity.”
Chandra’s organization has also screened 2.2 million people for eye diseases.
Chandra said many people ask him why he does this.
“This is a story that I always tell because that’s a common question. Why did you start it?” he said.
Chandra performed retinal surgery in India in the 80s. While he was performing a surgery on someone, he noticed a line of people outside waiting to have cataract surgery in another office.
“There was about 40 to 50 people sitting outside in a corridor, and when I finished in three hours and I came back, they were all gone. In the time I did one patient, they did almost 40 to 50,” Chandra said.
Chandra said he felt that he needed to do more. He asked himself: How can I help the most people in the least amount of time at an inexpensive rate?
He started Combat Blindness International, and through his organization’s work and partnerships with others around the world, he’s helped thousands.
“Some of them, they have not seen their grandchildren, and when you do the cataract surgery, they are able to see their grandchildren. It’s a very rewarding experience for all of us,” Chandra said.
For $25 and 15 minutes with an eye doctor, patients who have cataract blindness will be able to see the next day with the help of Chandra’s organization and his partnerships.
CBI’s president and executive director, Reena Chandra Rajpal, has been involved with the organization since she was young.
“Ninety percent of those who are blind live in low-income countries,” Rajpal said. “Fifty perfect of blindness is due to cataracts. So if you do nothing else but handle cataract surgeries, you have tackled 50 % of blindness in the world.”
Rajpal said that’s exactly what they’ve set out to do. Rajpal said she’s seen the impact of losing one’s sight in a low-income country.
“You could lose your job, you become a burden to your family, you can’t contribute to your family financially,” she said.
CBI has projects in India, Paraguay, Botswana, Gambia and the U.S. with the goal of combating cataract blindness for as many people as possible.
“They come in, they’re fearful, they don’t know what’s going to happen, but then they come out and they can see everything, and you can just see their smiles, their confidence,” Rajpal said.
This journey is not over yet. While they may have cured cataracts for thousands in Botswana, their next goal is to sustain this by training people to cure cataracts on their own.
CBI also has projects in the Madison area. It partners with the Madison Metropolitan School District, screens kids for eye diseases and pays for their glasses if they need them.
They also have several other partnerships in the Madison area. To learn more about CBI, click here.
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