MAR 2014

EyeWorld is the official news magazine of the American Society of Cataract & Refractive Surgery.

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E W IN OTHER NEWS March 2014 2 05 Physician and son summit the world-famous peak C hristopher J. Rapuano, MD, and his son, Patrick, had a different Christmas than usual last year. They spent the day climbing Africa's highest peak, Mt. Kilimanjaro. D r. Rapuano said that the experience was a unique father/son adventure for him and Patrick, 22, who has graduated from college and is in the process of applying for medical school. "This was the most physically strenuous thing I've done in a long time, if not ever. I've learned I'm up to that task," said Dr. Rapuano, di- rector of the cornea service, Wills Eye Hospital, Philadelphia. "I also learned—I know it's kind of cliché— that life is short. If you don't take time to do special things like this, you'll never do them." The climb took seven days with a support staff of 15. That team in- cluded a head guide, assistant guide, cook, and 12 porters. The slow climb was marked by the call of "polay, polay" in Swahili, which the guides tell climbers to prevent acute moun- tain sickness or altitude sickness. If climbers are struck by altitude issues from ascending too quickly, their hike can be cut short, even only an hour away from the top, known as the Uhuru summit. The slow ascent provided Dr. Rapuano and his son with a once-in- a-lifetime experience. It was just the two of them and their support staff climbing the mountain by day and sleeping on the mountain in a tent b y night. "When would we ever spend two-and-a-half weeks together, essentially 24 hours a day?" he said. "Just to be with him—neither of us are the most talkative people in the world—but to spend time together was just incredible." Volunteering at Tenwek Hospital The story begins with Dr. Rapuano's second oldest son's volunteer work at Tenwek Hospital in Bomet, Kenya in the fall of 2013. Through a con- nection with Wills Eye Hospital, P atrick was able to work in the ophthalmology department at the hospital under the direction of ophthalmologist Ben Roberts, MD. Patrick helped the hospital modify an electronic health records tem- plate and was trained as a surgical tech. He used this training to assist at a cataract outreach program in South Sudan just before the recent civil conflict began in that country. "They did about 250 cataracts in a week there. That was a pretty in- credible experience for him," Dr. Rapuano said. At the end of his two and a half months of volunteer time, Dr. Rapuano joined his son in Kenya and saw patients, gave some lectures, and performed corneal transplant surgery for a week at the hospital. The experience was new for him because of the conditions, he said. He called himself a "fairly con- servative person" who is happy to be in his comfort zone. by Erin L. Boyle EyeWorld Senior Staff Writer Mt. Kilimanjaro climb caps off volunteer trip to Africa efforts on his own. While he was hands-on with patients in some re- gions, in others it was more a ques- tion of training other professionals. While in Kenya, Dr. Bligard, who had brought a portable phacoemul- sification unit with him to teach the doctors in Nairobi, found that he was one of the first to perform phacoemulsification in the region. Other times, it has been a mat- ter of removing hyperdense lenses in regions where treatment was diffi- cult to come by, even for profession- als. Dr. Bligard recalled the case of a Kenyan accountant who had lost his job because of severe posterior sub- capsular cataracts and was thrilled by the results of the surgery. "He spoke good English and I remember him with his Kenyan accent, with a big smile on his face, saying, 'Ah, this vision is correct,'" Dr. Bligard said. Still, he emphasized that his efforts here are by no means about self-sacrifice. He stressed that when he volunteers he also spends time exploring what the area has to offer. "I'm about having a good time and enjoying myself," he said. "That applies to tennis, it applies to the humanitarian efforts, and it applies to my career." Currently, Dr. Bligard is where he wants to be. He recently reached the milestone of removing his 25,000th cataract. He already has a humanitarian trip to the Philippines Eye continued from page 204 Patrick and Dr. Rapuano trek through the rain forest along the Machame route. Patrick and Dr. Rapuano rest as clouds encircle Mount Meru in the distance. scheduled. As for tennis, while he will strive for another title, whether he wins or not, he will continue to play. "I love it," he said. "I will not quit for sure until my body forces me to, and it's hard to know when that could happen." EW Contact information Bligard: ebligard@wolfeclinic.com continued on page 206 204-208 ION_EW March 2014-DL_Layout 1 3/6/14 4:42 PM Page 205

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