I find it painful to contemplate this as I recently had surgery to remove, not just my incipient cataracts, but also the glasses I have worn for decades. It was painless, it was easy. But let me begin the story where it really began.
I was ten when I found I could not read the blackboard in my school. Father took me to an eye doctor who said I was myopic and needed glasses. It was a tectonic shift in my life. I could no longer play soccer or hockey, two of my favorite sports. I had to be careful not to slip or fall. Spectacles were made of glass those day, and I didn’t want broken glass in my eyes. From a carefree kid I was suddenly transformed into a cautiously treading bespectacled zombie.
Worse, every year or two I had to change glasses, the power of the lens rising a notch or two. I felt guilty making my parents pay for specialist fee and new glasses, more so when I inevitably lost the glasses or broke them accidentally. More disconcerting was the specialist’s prognosis that I had progressive myopia and my distance vision would continue to worsen.
They did not help at all, but raised our anxiety by talking of elongated eyeballs and the risks of retinal detachment, cataracts, glaucoma and blindness. My poor father, greatly concerned, took every charlatan’s advice and even took me to another city where a clinic boasted of miraculous improvements for the myopic. Of course there wasn’t the slightest improvement, but I loved my father for trying so hard to help me.
What really helped me was aging. As the years went by, my shortsightedness at first remained the same and then slowly diminished. I moved to bifocal lenses for distance and reading. There I would have remained but for the advance of science. Laser-assisted surgery arrived and, in a twenty-minute miracle, I can now go around again without glasses.
But I realize, now more than ever, that I live in a world where forty million people are unnecessarily blind, and twenty million of them can be restored their sight in ten minutes for the price of a lunch. Each of them is alone, in the sense they get no help from us who have vision.
By now the Center is a large operation. It offers basic opthalmic services, does advanced surgery, trains doctors and runs community centers in many places. It has developed a quick, inexpensive procedure for removing cataracts and produces lenses at a low cost that even the poor can afford. Ruit personally travels to remote areas to treat patients and teach doctors. He has done what no doctor in the world can match: he has given sight to 100,000 blind people.