SAVING SIGHT WORLDWIDE
Boarding "the eye in the sky" to give the blind
the gift of sight
In the early 1990s, Dr. James Oestreicher joined Orbis, an international non-profit, humanitarian organization that works in developing countries to restore sight to the 285 million people worldwide who are blind, severely visually impaired, or at risk of becoming blind. According to the World Health Organization, 80 percent of visual impairment cases can be prevented or cured with techniques routinely practiced in Canada.
Dr. Oesreicher has already visited (see slide show) Myanmar (Burma), the Philippines, China (twice), Vietnam (twice), Latvia, India, Bangladesh, Jamaica, Tanzania, Ghana, Mongolia and Panama.
"What drew me was the idea of teaching and going someplace and making an impact," explains Dr. Oestreicher, who adds that his overseas experiences are "unlike any teaching I have done - or ever will do."
"One woman [in China] came to us with blindness that was caused by an industrial accident and never properly treated," he says. "Her eyelids had fused to her brow, but it wasn't too late to repair the damage."
Another thing that keeps him going back is the interaction with local health-care teams. "They are very grateful, appreciative and always interested in learning." He still corresponds with doctors overseas. For example, a Chinese colleague, consulted with him about a child with a rare eye tumour. Dr Oestreicher had biopsied the tumour (behind the eye, in front of the brain) while in China. The standard treatment there was to remove the whole eye and tissue around it, a highly complex procedure that had a very low success rate and often resulted in death. Dr. Oestreicher sent medical literature on an alternative treatment (chemotherapy and radiation) that has a 90% success rate.
"Part of the reason I'm in this field is that it's very creative and every case is different," he says. "Orbis extends the range of work I do from cosmetic, to functional, to going to developing countries and really making a difference. That's what I need to have a feeling of balance between my professional life and personal life."
See Flying Hospital page.
"The problem with my eye is solved"
When I was first referred to Dr. Oestreicher I had my doubts that he could help me with a problem I have had since childhood because I have had many doctors who said that they could not correct the problem (I am now in my fifties), but Dr. Oestreicher did as promised. The problem with my eye is solved. He was just great, there was no problem if I needed an urgent follow up appointment. His staff were just great, friendly and efficient.