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First China Eye Mission for World Blindness Outreach
Special to the Ocular Surgery News

Although it was several years in the making, the first mission to China by world Blindness Outreach (WBO) was a success.
For one week in June, our team performed cataract surgery on 70 patients at the municipal hospital in Changzhi, a hard-to-reach city of half a million people several hundred miles southwest of Beijing.  After our mission, local officials said they were interested in establishing an ongoing exchange relationship.
Our hosts were warm and gracious.  When we alighted from our small plane at the Changzhi airport, a man rushed up to James B. Fowler and took hold of the bag that held his surgical instruments.  This caught fowler off guard, and for a moment the two seemed to tug the bag back and forth.  Then someone explained that the man was chairman of the ophthalmology department from the hospital and was merely trying to be polite.
Conditions at the hospital were best described as clean but stark.  Modern equipment was available, but not in great quantity.  We were aided by two young doctors, Peng Kun and Liu Fang, both ophthalmologists from an eye center in the city of Taiun.  They helped us screen patients and acted as our interpreters.
Most of the patients on whom we operated were afflicted with senile-type cataracts that occur spontaneously with age.  We saw a few patients with traumatic and congenital problems.  we used a portable phacoemulsifier (OMS) for some of the surgeries, but we performed most by manual extracapsular extraction with a Simcoe needle and posterior chamber IOL.

Teaching and Learning
We videotaped the operations to serve as a teaching aid we could leave behind.  At any given moment, there were five to ten Chinese doctors in the operating theater observing our procedures.  One of our team members, Dr. Fowler, an ophthalmologist from Pueblo, Colo., lectured on recent advances in eye surgery to a group of more than 100 Chinese doctors.
The exchange of information during the mission was not all one way.  we had the opportunity to tour the hospital and witness the disparate scenes of patients undergoing CAT scans in one room and being treated by acupuncture in another.  I saw a patient with needles in her lip and forehead being treated for severe headaches and another man with needles in various spots in his leg being treated for arthritis.
The volunteers with me on the team for the trip were Dr. Fowler and his wife, Sharon, a surgical nurse, both first-timers with WBO; Dr. Julio Martinez, an ophthalmologist from Sonora, Mexico, and a veteran of many missions; Judy May and Erma Zimmerman, both nurses from Good Samaritan Hospital in Lebanon, Pa; Dr. Valerie Alley, my niece, a medical doctor from St. Davids, Pa; Linda Alley, my daughter, who was on leave from her administrative post with the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic; and Elvis Stoltzfus, the incoming president of the Rotary Club in Lebanon, Pa.

Many of our surgical eye missions - this was my 12th - have been cosponsored with WBO by individual Rotary clubs and Rotary districts, with support from the Rotary Foundation; such was not the case with this trip.  There are no Rotary clubs in China at present.   However, we maintained a strong unofficial connection with the organization through the presence of Stoltzfus, because I recently finished a term as governor of Rotary district 7390 and because both Drs. Fowler and Martinez are Rotarians.
The trip to China was originally suggested by one of my patients, a Chinese-American woman named Evelyn Herman.  She and her husband, Ted, contacted a friend, William Hinton, an agricultural expert who has lived in China for on and off for many years and had been a close friend of the late Premier Chou En-lai.
Hinton was able to arrange a meeting with a delegation of Chinese officials who visited Central Pennsylvania in 1992 to establish a sister-city arrangement with between Changzhi and Reading, Pa.  That meeting was, which took place in my office in  Lebanon, Pa, was only the beginning; it took two more years to iron out all the details.
Hinton and his wife, a volunteer with UNICEF, the children's aid arm of the United Nations, joined our party in Beijing and traveled with us to Changzhi.  In Changzhi, we else where joined by Roger Leibrum and Carl Manisco, representatives of the Starr Surgical Co., who were in China at the time of our visit.   They added a phacoemulsifier and foldable lens implants to the considerable store of medical supplies we took with us for the mission.

More Missions
The WBO is planning a return trip in February 1995 to Bangalore, India, a desperately poor region we have visited twice.  On our previous trip in January 1994, our team performed 175 successful cataract surgeries and began a major teaching effort with local doctors.  At the time, it was the largest mission in which WBO had ever been involved. 
On the follow-up trip, we hope to perform 500 or more cataract operations , which would make it one of the largest surgical eye missions ever undertaken.  We will need a large contingent of volunteer doctors to handle this mission, and we hope that many of the ophthalmologists who are reading this will offer their services.  We are also planning a trip to Brazil in late April.  Please contact me by writing to WBO at 1510 Cornwall Road, Lebanon, PA 17042, or by calling me at (717) 273-0662.



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