“What I really believe is life is very short and what you can do in that period you must do it can change the life of their family” an inspirational quote by one of the best eye surgeons in the world Dr. Sanduk Ruit.
Sanduk Ruit is a Nepali miracle eye doctor who has restored the sight of more than 120,000 people (possibly more than any eye surgeons) through small-incision cataract surgery across the world especially in Africa and Asia.
According to the World Health Organisation census, around 39 million people are blind and other 246 million have impaired vision. Dr. Sanduk Ruit has a long way to go.
Journey Of Sanduk Ruit
Sanduk Ruit was born in a rural area of Olanchungola, Taplejung district. Born in a remote mountainous area, Ruit and his family suffered from lack of facilities.
He was born as the second children of his parents among six of them. He lost his three siblings due to lack of health facilities. His elder brother died due to simple diarrhoea, younger sister died of fever and another sister died of tuberculosis.
After the death of his three siblings, he knew the reason for the death of his brother and sister. And he knew that if they received the good and affordable medical treatment they would be alive.
In an interview with SBS Nepal, he said: “Her death gave me the inspiration and strength to make a pledge to myself to try and help save lives of other people from Nepal who couldn’t afford treatment for various illnesses”.
With his strong determination, he did hard work and a few years later he was able to receive a scholarship in the Colombo Plan. Ruit graduated with a medical degree from King George’s Medical University.
He became the first graduate from his village and started working as a junior doctor at Bir Hospital. He says, “One of the things I’ve been pretty strong at is that I did not lose my focus, and I was strongly determined.”
While working in the hospital, he went to his home village as a Government-appointed doctor and there he saved a four years old’s life. After saving a life, he said: “This is what I was meant to be doing.”
The feeling was described by an author Ali Gripper in the biography titled, ‘The Barefoot Surgeon’.
Later in 1985, destiny brought Dr. Ruit and Dr. Fred Hollows together which changed his life forever. Actually, Dr Hollow visited Nepal to study leading causes of blindness, trachoma for WHO. A Nepali doctor who was set to pick up Fred Hollows from Airport took Ruit him. At their meeting: Ruit said, “It seemed like God’s will for us to meet”.
The common ideas between them of uplifting the marginalised communities created an instant connection between them. Two years later, in 1987, they started their lifelong partnership.
In the same year, Ruit and his wife Nanda were invited to Australia by Fred and his wife Gabi. Following year many members of the Nepali community formed The Nepal Eye Program Australia. They started fundraising and the first fundraiser program collected around only $150.
Dr. Sanduk stated, “That $150 sowed the seeds for our major entrance into the world of eye surgery.” Eventually, organisations helped many patients.
With the goal of providing affordable and supportable cataracts surgery, he innovated the idea of a simpler technique for the surgery. He advanced the method from the traditional way of surgery which took a few days to only a few minutes.
He set up health camps in various places to treat and examine patients but was later reported to the government by some goons. In 1989, Sanduk and Fred took their idea to an international medical conference thinking they would get support.
But their idea was slammed by several doctors claiming it to be too complicated and expensive. Although having many opposers, their determination did not fade away.
They took the risk of continuing on their own and managed to develop a new type of intraocular lens worth only $3 which was brought down from $200. After the success, Sanduk whispered, “People thought we were mad – but we proved them wrong.”
The two doctors worked together for years until 1993 after Fred died due to cancer.
As of now, Dr. Sanduk Ruit is still providing service for three decades. He has supported and restored the sight of around 150,000 people in third world countries including Nepal, Myanmar, India, Sudan, Ghana, Ethiopia, and North Korea.
Regarding his future projects, Sanduk Ruit said,
“Building community eye hospitals – what I call achievable, sustainable, high-quality models – with two doctors and 25 staff delivering service to about a million people. “This is a great model for eradicating avoidable blindness.”