Flying Eye Hospital prevents blindness in under-developed countries

- A hospital with wings has landed at Moffett Field in Mountain View. Inside is a high-tech teaching hospital, called the Flying Eye.

It's a key cog in a program dedicated to preventing blindness in under-developed countries.

"Our mission is to fight global blindness," said dr. Antonio Jaramillo one of the eye doctors participating in the program

The plane is an MD-10. It's been redesigned from its days as a cargo plane donated by Federal Express.

It has an operating room for eye surgeries with the latest equipment, and a recovery area with teddy bears for the children who come in for treatment.

"36 million are blind. 75 percent of people could be treated or cured if we had the resources. If people are trained to treat them," said Dr. Jaramillo.

The flying hospital just finished tours in Cameroon and Bangladesh.

Doctors treated hundreds of patients wth glaucoma, cataracts and problems with retinas. People who are blind one day, can see the next.

"When you see the faces it breaks your heart. You tear up out of joy," said Jaramillo.

The program is run by the non-profit organization Orbis. The doctors, medical staff  and pilots donate their time and skills.

"Our hospital is accredited with all the standards for sterilization. We make our own hospital grade oxygen," said Bruce Johnson, a pilot with Orbis.

Treating patients in foreign lands is just part of the  program. It also trains doctors and technicians in the countries it visits on how to perform the various surgeries.

They can watch procedures live on monitors, or  with 3D goggles, and ask questions. Sometimes doctors forget they are working on an airplane.

"When you are day to day you just feel like you are in your own hospital," said Jaramillo.

The Flying Hospital will be in the Bay Area through the holidays, get some maintenance, then it heads out to treat patients in Peru.

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