First Annual Eye Camp After the Pandemic Restores Sight to Thousands

In northern India, long-running It Is Written initiative offers free cataract surgeries.

Jacob Prabhakar, for It Is Written, and Adventist Review
First Annual Eye Camp After the Pandemic Restores Sight to Thousands
Jacob Prabhakar examines a patient’s eye during the 2022 annual clinic in Hariakol of Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh, India. [Photo: It Is Written]

Eyes for India is the long-running It Is Written initiative restoring sight to the blind through cataract surgeries in that South Asian nation. Every year, ophthalmologist Jacob Prabhakar and his medical team hold an eye-surgery camp at a temple in northern India. Below, he shares a report from the recent event held in January 2022.

The temple camp conducted every year in a remote village — Hariakol of Barabanki, in the most populous and poverty-stricken Indian state of Uttar Pradesh — is the highlight of all community services rendered by the Ruby Nelson Memorial Hospital. This unique mega eye camp (resumed for the first time since 2020 because of the pandemic) creates a tremendous impact, in that Hindus steeped in superstitious beliefs acknowledge Christ’s methods of medical ministry and are convinced that this kind of phenomenal healing that they witness year after year is possible only through a God who is very much foreign to them. 

Despite a cold, misty night and a 24-hour journey in the It Is Written-gifted bus—loaded heavily with medical supplies and equipment, navigating at times through zero visibility—the spirit and enthusiasm of the medical team was not dampened. They are committed to serving the poor.

Patients also traveled long distances in the biting cold, mostly on foot, carrying the blind and the disabled either on shoulders or makeshift beds. Others reached the campsite on two-wheelers, buses, or trains. To these marginalized poor in the far-flung areas of North India, the free eye camp is a flickering ray of hope that will make their dream of restored sight come true. This drives them to brave the risks and challenges of an arduous journey through forest lands in inclement weather.

We are motivated to complete these camps by the high success rate of a seemingly simple cataract surgery, which can drastically transform lives. Having understood the importance of wholistic health, the temple priests, volunteers, and camp organizers are receptive to the distribution of spiritual and health literature and health and hygiene talks.

The eye clinic opened early every morning. We screened, on average, 500 people each day and carefully selected for surgery the bilaterally blind — those with hypermature, hard cataracts, which over time will turn into a permanent, painful blind eye. The selected patients then undergo a detailed preoperative workup and then surgery for cataracts, wherein they are implanted with an intraocular lens under sterile conditions.

The pandemic necessitated the implementation of additional safety protocols such as rapid COVID-19 antigen screening tests, social distancing, and vaccination mandates. COVID personal protective equipment (PPE) kits and other safety preparedness were provided by It Is Written.

The backlog of patients encountered this year was greater than before because of the ongoing pandemic, which had kept those who needed help indoors and prevented them from seeking timely medical attention. The surgeries were also reduced to 200 per day because of the COVID restrictions on spacing of beds. Sadly, nearly 2,000 patients registered for surgery had to be turned away because of lack of time and surgical supplies.

Despite these setbacks, a total of 2,628 people received the precious gift of sight. The patients who received the operation and had their sight restored beamed with joy and were filled with gratitude. They left the camp praising God, knowing that they can now lead independent lives and earn a livelihood. 

God has been gracious and merciful in helping It Is Written to make a difference by touching lives and restoring sight. It has brought health and healing not only to the receiver but a greater blessing of joy and achievement to the giver as well. 

This amazing ministry in enabling us to reach the unreached.

The original version of this story was posted by It Is Written.

Jacob Prabhakar, for It Is Written, and Adventist Review