CureBlindness | In the Shadow of the Mountains, Phuti Finds the Light
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Photo Credit: Kristoffer Erickson

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In the Shadow of the Mountains, Phuti Finds the Light

news | Nepal | Aug 29, 2023

66-year-old Phuti Sherpa grew up in the shadows of the Himalayas, the mountains’ majestic beauty a backdrop for her life in the remote village of Dadakharka. After losing her sight to cataracts, her view of the mountains was one of the things she missed most. Thanks to HCP, Phuti’s mountain panorama – and her independence – have been restored.

Phuti Sherpa grew up in the shadows of the Himalayas, the mountains’ majestic beauty a backdrop for her life in the remote village of Dadakharka, Gorakhani-7.

For the past two years, 66-year-old Phuti has not seen her much-loved mountains. Cataracts robbed her of her morning view as well as her independence, since could no longer work or care for herself. Fortunately, Phuti’s relatives took her in, but for residents of Dadakharka blindness is perceived as a burden. Another expression for a blind person in Nepal is "a mouth with no hands."

Like many who lose their eyesight to cataracts in low- and middle-income countries she believed, that she would be blind for life. In her village it is commonly accepted that you gets old, your hair turns white, your eyes turn white, and then you die.

We at HCP Cureblindness challenge this bleak outlook.

Dare the Impossible

Our organization was founded on two core beliefs:

  1. That anyone can dare the impossible
  2. And that everyone deserves quality eye care

Curing patients like Phuti is what prompted co-founders Dr. Sanduk Ruit and Dr. Geoff Tabin to create the then-named Himalayan Cataract Project. Founded in Nepal in 1995, HCP set out with the ambitious goal of eliminating all preventable and treatable blindness from the Himalayan region. In co-founder Dr. Geoff Tabin’s words, this mission was “more audacious than setting out to make the first ascent of the East Face of Mount Everest.” Yet, because these two pioneers dared the impossible, Nepal faces the lowest rate of preventable blindness that the country has ever seen.

Screenshot 2023 08 25 at 12 07 09 PM

In the shadow of the mountain, Phuti finds the light.

A free microsurgical eye clinic (OMEC) came to Phuti’sher remote village earlier this year. The outreach was possible through a partnership with the Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology (TIO), HCP Cureblindness, and the Solu Community Eye Centre located in the Phaplu region of Solukhumbu. It was one of several planned throughout Nepal for 2023.

When the day of the outreach finally came, Phuti’s sister and son accompanied her to learn what could be done to restore Phuti’s vision loss. They milled about anxiously with neighbors and friends who were also seeking care until it came Phuti’s time to be screened. Phuti’s screening showed bilateral mature cataracts severely affecting her ability to see out of either eye. In a matter of minutes, she was referred to the main eye camp at Solu and scheduled for surgery a few weeks later.

Led by Dr. Roojita Parajuli, the medical team performed cataract surgery on both of Phuti’s eyes with precision and care. The surgical intervention proved to be an overwhelming success. Phuti burst into tears when the doctor removed her bandages.

After taking in her loved ones’ faces, she looked towards the mountains. They were as beautiful as she remembered.

With her sight now restored, Phuti will return home and live independently. She now can sell potatoes in the local market, giving her not only a source of income, but a restored sense of freedom. Every morning, Phuti starts her day by looking to the mountains and soaking in their beauty.

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