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Saving Sight Worldwide: ORBIS International

November 11, 2011

orbisheatherWritten by Heather Machin, Associate Director of Nursing for ORBIS International

“Saving sight worldwide.” That’s the simplest way that I can describe my job. But of course it’s much more complicated …

I’m the Associate Director of Nursing for ORBIS, which operates, the world’s only Flying Eye Hospital. We prevent and treat blindness by providing quality eye care to transform lives. We achieve this by providing the tools, training, and technology necessary for local partners to develop and improve their own services and provide quality eye care services that are affordable, accessible and sustainable.

Our ORBIS plane is a fully functional eye hospital, complete with operating room. It’s main function is as a teaching day hospital.

My goal is not to turn our partner hospitals of the developing world into mirrors of western hospitals but instead to support them to improve their hospital and methods, thereby improving the quality of eye care services in those countries.

Through its education programs, the ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital does a lot more than just cataract surgeries. As the plane is so well equipped we are able to provide a variety of eye-training to the back and front of the eye and the area around the eye.

For example, not long ago we landed in Mongolia and 90% of the nation’s ophthalmologists, and a large group of Ulaanbaatar ophthalmic nurses, joined our program over a three week period of time to update their training The entire Mongolian nation will benefit for years because of this one visit! Mongolia has benefited from our visit and we look forward to more of these programs in the future.

orbisheather1We also recently visited Peru and worked with a group of nurses to help them learn how to publish their amazing local research to the international medical journal community. If this hadn’t happened, everyone would have missed out on some extremely helpful, world class findings from these researchers in Peru.

There are so many rewarding aspects of the job but I cannot fail to mention the incredible feeling that I get when I see the face of a parent who is with their child and the child is able to see for the very first time. It really touches my heart when I see the lengths our patients and family members go to to ensure they make it onto the program. It re-affirms why I do this job.

I have been with ORBIS for over 2 years but I have been in the ophthalmic area for about 8 years prior.  I joined ORBIS because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of people and that is precisely what I am doing. I know that sounds corny – but it’s 100% true!

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Note: FedEx has supported ORBIS International for over three decades with volunteer pilots, maintenance and logistics support. Over 75% of the pilots on ORBIS flights are FedEx volunteer pilots. In August of 2011 FedEx continued the support with the donation of $5 million and an MD-10 cargo aircraft to be the third-generation Flying Eye Hospital. This week the ORBIS plane is in Memphis, TN completing the US portion of its Goodwill Tour.

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