Firstly special thanks to all the administrators and managers at the Hospital Unviersitario Erasmo Meoz, Patricio Lopez & Carmen Elisa Araque Perez from the University of Santander. They were instrumental in facilitating our first project.
Also thank you to Alcon, Rayner, Zeiss, Ansell and Sigma Pharmaceutical for ensuring the operational success for our first project.
"Bringing light to darkness” is the tag line for The Guru Projects Foundation charity, and we are all proud of the work that was carried out by the volunteers and the local healthcare professionals. On February 23rd 2023 for 10 days we became a family. Part Colombian, part from the UK but with the same humanitarian spirt.
The aims of our Colombia project was to perform safe, effective and uncomplicated surgery replicating the high standards we have back in the UK. We wanted to provide ophthalmic care to a population that was unable to access healthcare, in doing so we wanted to ultimately improve the vision and quality of life for these people.
The team comprised of six volunteers:
Mr Manuel Saldana (Consultant Ophthalmologist, East Sussex),
Mr Saruban Pasu (Consultant Ophthalmologist and Charity founder/CEO, East Sussex),
Miss Evgenia Anikina (Consultant Ophthalmologist, London),
Dr Kanchan Sharma (Consultant Neurologist, Bristol),
Mrs Lesley Carter (Matron, East Sussex),
Mr Nigel Olliff (Charity Trustee, East Sussex).
The chosen location for the project was the Hospital Unviersitario Erasmo Meoz in the city of Cucuta, Northern Colombia.
Through links with the hospital we created a screening team locally who successfully carried out the brief set out by the charity. Led by Dr Juan Carlos Superlano, the screening team identified patients needing cataract surgery, pterygium surgery, and oculoplastic surgery. The patients were made aware of the project through local advertising platforms, radio and social media advertising.
Once these patients were identified, the cataract cases all had biometry measurements taken so a suitable intraocular lens could be chosen for implantation.
All the patients were then given the details of when the charity would start operating.
Starting at 7am and finishing at 7pm, the format of each day was the same. The first hour was dedicated to seeing all the new patients in clinic to explain the procedures and obtain informed consent. All post operative patients were seen in the morning clinic too. The rest of the working day was dedicated to surgery. We were allocated two theatres with three operating beds. Scrub nurse support was from the local team who were trained by Lesley Carter. She did a fantastic job in training these highly skilled nurses a completely new skill of assisting for ophthalmic cases. We were all amazed how quickly and efficiently they managed to acquire these skills and without them our project aims would not have been met.
A good grasp of logistics was vital for the project to proceed with no issues, and thanks to Kanchan Sharma and Nigel Olliff the group were confident that each knew what their roles would be for each day. The three consultant ophthalmologists carried out over 200 procedures over the 10 day trip. Operating in a different environment with different equipment along with a language barrier proved a challenge that the surgeons relished. They confidently put to good use the skills they had acquired during their extensive training in the UK. On reflection it was clear that many of the cataracts were so visually disabling due to late presentation and a high incidence of trauma. The climate and hours of sunshine per day lends itself to the very high incidence of pterygia.
Cataract surgery - 129 patients
Pterygium surgery - 56 patients
Blepharoplasty - 15 patients
Ptosis surgery - 11 patients
Tumour removal - 6 patients
Vitreoretinal cases - 3 patients
Secondary lenses - 3 patients
Dacryocystorhinostomy - 3 patients
Platinum weight insertion - 1 patient
We also had the honour of running an educational programme with medical students at the Universidad de Santander. The links we formed here is something we will definitely build upon with a view to building some sustainability to treating ophthalmic patients.
The highlight of the trip for all was seeing the patients post operatively. The tears of happiness with expressions of shear joy and relief was a truly humbling experience for all the volunteers. Hearing how hard life had been for the patients with poor vision and knowing our work had successfully changed lives forever is a feeling none of us will ever forget. Seeing the smiles and really feeling the warmth in the hugs that many of the older patients offered made it clear to us that we really had made a difference to this community. A difference that would lead to an improvement in the quality of their lives and their surrounding network.
The team are already working the next project and would greatly appreciate your financial assistance. Please do click on the donate button on the website, it really will make a difference.
- The Guru Projects Foundation
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