From Cataract Surgeries in Ghana to Climbing Mt. Kenya – #MyPROBARstory

February 10, 2015

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Dr. Geoff Tabin, Co-Founder of the Himalayan Cataract Project, is Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Director of the Division of International Ophthalmology at the John A. Moran Eye Center, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, USA. Dr. Tabin spends a considerable part of the year working abroad, both in Nepal and throughout the Himalayas, as well as in Africa. When not working, he’s often found rock climbing all around the world. Here’s his #MyPROBARstory.

The setting is a makeshift operating room in Northern Ghana. It is a Cataract Surgical Outreach event for the Himalayan Cataract Project at the Kwane-Danso Sene Health Clinic. It is midday, and it is hot.




I can feel the sweat building up underneath my scrub cap. At times, it feels as if we are set up by the mouth of a furnace. The hum of flies buzzing around the operating room becomes our soundtrack. A crowd of blind patients and their families sit in every available spot of shade.

Around me, a team of local nurses bustles about. We have been working feverishly for multiple days, performing hundreds of surgeries, and still hundreds wait for their turn on the table.

I know I will be here for several more hours but I can’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else. As I carefully insert an intraoculer lens into the eye of the 60-something Ghanaian woman lying on the operating table, I think about who she will be tomorrow. Tomorrow, she will no longer be the woman who lives in darkness. Tomorrow, she will not just regain her sight, but her life.




So many of my days are like the one I just described. They can be exhausting, but I never tire out. I’m fueled by two wondrous things — the knowledge that we are changing lives, and the PROBARs that accompany me on every journey I go on.

Recently, our team made its way from Ethiopia to Ghana and then to Kenya. Over the course of that three-week period, we performed 1,146 cataract surgeries and 14 cornea transplants.

I carry an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction from these successful campaigns, and it fills me with joy to work with the incredible local teams that are making great strides in eye care for their respective countries. And sometimes I get a chance to work in a bit of outdoor adventure afterward.




Such was the case on this particular trip, which involved Timmy O’Neill and Niels Tietze, two professional climbers who recently trained as ophthalmic assistants at our main teaching hospital in Nepal in order to volunteer at remote cataract programs.


Niels, Geoff & Timmy


After finishing surgery, Timmy, Niels and I headed directly to Mt. Kenya. We trekked in for three days and completed a 20-pitch rock climb to Batian, the highest summit of the mountain. At the top, we tore into our PROBARs, took in the view and reflected on the past few weeks. I couldn’t think of a better way to close out 2014. The sky was crystal clear, just as the vision was now for so many amazing human beings who’d been living in the dark.


Timmy on top of Mt. Kenya2