In December 2009, working as the inaugural Fellow for the Fred Hollows Foundation, I had the amazing opportunity to participate in a surgical trip. This took place at the spectacular Pullahari Monastery located in the Kathmandu Valley.

This was by no means your average trip, and to this day remains one of the most cherished memories of my career.

Working as a Team

For three days, I worked as part of a team of three surgeons, led by world-renowned surgeon Dr. Sanduk Ruit. We delivered eye care services and performed surgery on local people with cataracts – most so severe the patients were blind. During these three days, hundreds of patients received life-changing surgery. The patients had been identified by teams of optometric assistants who had screened the local population in the months leading up to our visit.

A large team of staff from the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology in Kathmandu was responsible for the logistical support, including supplying the equipment. This meant setting up a mobile operating theatre, as well as the transport and processing of patients. The monks at the monastery also helped out wherever required. In particular they assisted by testing patients’ vision, preparing patients for surgery, and organising meals.

The Pullahari Monastery

The monastery housed all staff and patients during the surgery intensive. The mobile operating theatres were even set up in one of the worship rooms. After a particularly long day in the operating theatre, I remember one of the monks served us traditional ‘butter tea’. This was very welcome (even though the taste was quite ‘unique’!).

Amazing Memories

This trip was a fantastic experience. It really opened my eyes to how lucky we are in Australia to have such easy access to high-quality health care services. I will be eternally grateful to the Fred Hollows Foundation and Dr. Sanduk Ruit for the experience.

Check out some of the amazing photos below. – Dr. Katherine Smallcombe

Dr Ruit is a famous Nepalese surgeon who was trained by Fred Hollows during his trip to Nepal in the 1980s. He leads a surgical trip to a spectacular setting in Kathmandu every year.