This Hospital Soars

September 9, 2016
Suzanne Zimbler
The Flying Eye Hospital got its start more than 30 years ago.
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Elisa Urruchi is a nurse at a very special eye hospital. It has the best surgical equipment available. It also has a classroom, where doctors and nurses can learn about sight-saving procedures. But what makes the hospital truly unique is that it is inside an airplane.

The Orbis Flying Eye Hospital travels to places where many people do not have access to the medical care they need. Top doctors perform eye surgery on the plane.

Urruchi says she will never forget one patient in particular. In Peru, a young boy who was blind had surgery on the plane. Afterward, he could see. He held onto his doctor, refusing to let go. He believed that if the doctor went away so too might his ability to see, Urruchi explained.

A boy has an eye exam onboard the Flying Eye Hospital.

GEOFF BUGBEE

Reaching More Patients

Only a small number of the millions of people who need eye surgery can be treated on the plane. That is why training is so important. Wherever the Flying Eye Hospital goes, the plane’s doctors and nurses work with local health-care workers. “I’m glad I have this opportunity to share my knowledge and skills,” Urruchi told TFK.

Many members of the plane’s staff are volunteers. Dr. H. Jay Wisnicki is a pediatric eye surgeon in New York City. He has volunteered onboard the Flying Eye Hospital for 20 years, performing surgery on children around the world and teaching other doctors. “The goal is to elevate levels of training so more people can be treated,” he says.

Angela Purcell is the head nurse on the plane. She says she is focused on the 4 million children waiting for eye care. Purcell travels 40 weeks a year for work. But she would not trade her job for any other. “It’s so gratifying,” she says.

Think Why is training such an important part of the work done on the Flying Eye Hospital?