According to the World Health Organization, 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired. Of that number 80% of these impairments can be avoided or cured – however, 90% of those afflicted live in developing countries where receiving that care is difficult or almost impossible.
This is where ORBIS International comes in.
ORBIS International is a nonprofit organization that works in developing countries to save sight. ORBIS prevents and treats blindness through hands-on training, public health education, improved access to quality eye care, advocacy and partnerships with local health care organizations. In 1982, its unique aircraft, the Flying Eye Hospital, took to the skies. For the first time ever, a fully-equipped, state-of-the-art teaching hospital had been installed inside an airplane.
Since then, the Flying Eye Hospital has carried out hospital based programs in 92 countries, and has established a long-term presence in the following countries: Bangladesh, China, India, Nepal, Vietnam, Cameroon, Ethiopia, South Africa, Zambia, Peru and Haiti. ORBIS has also used the Flying Eye Hospital and local hospital partners to train 325,000 ophthalmologists, nurses, biomedical engineers and other health care workers to carry out their work, plus has developed an active pool of over 400 doctors, nurses and other eye care specialists from around the world who volunteer to teach during one- to two-week sight-saving programs.
ORBIS medical faculty also train local doctors in oculoplastic surgery, which includes repair of the eye socket (orbit), eyelids, and tear production and drainage. Oculoplastic surgery may be performed to preserve sight as well as to enhance appearance.
Conditions that commonly require oculoplastic surgery in developing countries include:
* Drooping upper eyelid (ptosis)
* Scarring of the upper eyelid, caused by (trachoma, age or trauma, which prevents the lid from covering the entire eye
* Blocked tear ducts
* Trauma causing a fracture to the bones surrounding the eye (socket/orbit)
* Tumors within the orbit, eye or tear gland or pressing against the eye (orbital tumor)
Oculoplastic surgery includes placement of an artificial eye (prosthesis) when eye removal is necessary. Oculoplastic surgical skills are in extremely short supply in developing countries.
ORBIS FEH Comparison – DC-10 vs. MD-10
Recently, FedEx has donated an MD-10 cargo aircraft which will replace the DC-10 that has been serving them well (and still will during the transition). The MD-10 will be converted into the next generation, state of the art Flying Eye Hospital. With the MD-10, ORBIS will only need two pilots as opposed to the current three, as the need for a flight engineer is eliminated. Transitioning to the MD-10 also increases the availability of FedEx pilots to fly FEH programs. The MD-10 has better range, expending from 4,000 to 6,000 miles before a need to refuel. Finally, because they are converting a freighter to a hospital, they will be able to configure the hospital using modules as opposed to building it into the airframe – much more cost-effective and requiring less certification to operate as a flying hospital.
To learn more about ORBIS, including how to donate your time or resources to the cause, please visit www.ORBIS.org. And you can learn more about McDonnell Douglas commercial aircraft on the market at GlobalAir.com as well.