Second Suns

This book has nothing new to add to the well- known operating skills of this surgeon.

Nov. 10, 2013, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.: 07 No.-10 Nov. 08 -2013 (Kartik 22, 2070)

A new book entitled the Second Suns( Random House)  tells the story of two revolutionary eye doctors,DrSandukRuit from Nepal and Geoff Tabin from the US. It is a story of innovative medicine and compassion.

DrSandukRuit from Olangchungola in Taplejung district won an open scholarship to study medicine in the prestigious King George Medical College in Lucknow, India.  After specializing in ophthalmology   Ruit was mentored by the  famous Australian, Dr. Fred Hollows, in ground-breaking cataract surgery.  This modern technique, which Ruit helped perfect, involves a deft incision in the cornea, removal of the cataract, and placement of the new lens. Recovery is prompt.

Reams have been written about how exquisitely competentRuit’s hands are in performing cataract surgery even in the most difficult places with lack of resources. This book has nothing new to add to the well- known operating skills of this surgeon. But what is amazing is how effectively Ruit, working closely with his counterpart Dr Geoff Tabin, has been able to propagate his magic technique to the furthest corners of the world, including Nepal, Tibet,Bhutan  Mongolia and even North Korea.  Ruit was driven from the start in trying to provide world class cataract surgery to the poorest communities on earth. And the book describes in some detail how this shared vision of these two innovative doctors helped many thousands of patients worldwide who otherwise would not be able to see.  In addition what this book brings to the fore is  how quickly Ruit performs these cataract operations. In villages where hundreds of patients are waiting to have their cataract surgery, speed is of the essence.

Butspeed has to be accomplished without surgical complications.  An important study(referenced in the book) in the American Journal of Ophthalmology clearly demonstrated that  one of the world’s best and fastest eye surgeon, David Chang from the US, took nearly twice as long to operate on each patient as Ruit had. The study also revealed that ninety one % of Ruit’s cataract patient had normal vision compared to Chang’s 78 % after one day of surgery. This is an essential difference for people who have to walk home over difficult terrain soon after the operation. At six months time, 98% of both Chang and Ruit’s patients had excellent eyesight.  The article clearly showed that the cataract surgery Ruit was doing in monasteries, schools and police posts was comparable to outcome patients could expect in modern American hospitals.

Dr. Geoff Tabin too is an amazing man driven with the sense of strong altruism. He has many accomplishments. He is Harvard educated, a serious tennis player who captained the Yale tennis team when he went to college there, and a well- known mountain climber who has summited Everest and many other mountains. Despite all these accomplishments he also shows deep humility when he tells the Dalai Lama that in the field of cataract surgery “everything I have achieved, I have achieved with the partnership of Ruit”. The book is also well balanced in its pitch as it depicts Ruit’s grumpy nature at times with Tabin often appearing to be a hyperactive adolescent.

There is however a melancholic presence pervading this book: the author, David Relin, who also wrote the best- seller Three Cups of Tea with Greg Morteson took his own life in 2012. Many events in that book werefound to be either fabricated or excessively embellished by Greg Mortenson. Nepali readers of this new heart-warming  book about SandukRuit and Geoff Tabin will find that contrary to Three Cups of Tea, this book rings true.

Buddha Basnyat.jpg

Buddha Basnyat MD

Buddha Basnyat, MD, MSc, FACP, FRCP, Director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit-Patan Academy of Health Sciences, Kathmandu.

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