A look inside the Orbis Flying Eye hospital

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 4:06 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) - A MD-10 aircraft donated by FedEx is an engineering masterpiece - and is changing lives around the world.

“We’ve treated literally thousands of patients around the world and even more importantly, we’ve trained hundreds of thousands of ophtalmologists, anesthesiologists and eye health professionals since we first took off in 1982,” said Dr. Hunter Cherwek of Orbis International.

90% of the world’s blindness can be prevented or treated, but with the vast majority of that in low to middle income countries, the Orbis Flying Eye hospital attacks the problem head on.

“We go around the world and teach doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists and engineers how to give people their sight back,” said Dr. Cherwek. “We’re not about going in and showing off. We’re about going in and showing how. And so yes, for me, patient care is always number one but the bigger number - the one that I focus on - is how many people have we trained, how many skills have we transferred, how much equipment have we donated. To me, that’s what’s the game changer.”

The Flying Eye is a teaching hospital, and is equipped with a full operating room. Once it is in a country, real patients are assessed and treated on board and in local hospitals with the Orbis team, who work side by side with doctors from around the world.

“To me, that OR is the best example of functional diplomacy I’ve ever seen in the world. We literally will have all six continents working together and the only thing they care about is the patient under the drape and teaching each other,” said Dr. Cherwek. “I’ve learned as much from the doctors I work with as I teach myself.”

A full non-profit, Orbis is funded and operated by donations and volunteers.

The experience of working on the team is rewarding for everyone, from the doctors performing surgery to the pilots who fly the plane.

“If I can, and a lot of us do, if we can we will help with the screening process or comforting people that are waiting for their family member to get their surgery, so it’s a lot of fun to be involved with that,” said Cyndyhi Berwyn, an Orbis pilot.

Copyright 2021 WBAY. All rights reserved.