Cuba welcomes flying eye plane

A team of doctors including U ophthalmologist and professor Alan Crandall, will travel to Cuba March 12 to perform eye surgeries in the world’s only flying eye airplane.

The eye jet is a converted DC-10-10 jet aircraft supplied with a surgical facility and classroom.

With ORBIS, a global humanitarian group, Crandall and his group will volunteer their time and money to perform preventive surgeries on Cubans who are at risk of blindness.

Surgeries will be demonstrated in the plane while teaching local doctors the latest procedures and techniques.

“Volunteering on these medical programs is a rare opportunity for me to share my knowledge and skills with doctors living in countries where few health-educational resources are available,” Crandall said.

Typical eye surgeries will consist of difficult glaucoma cases and removal of dense cataracts, according to Crandall.

“This trip is more educational [than prior trips],” he ain purpose is to teach other doctors. Local doctors will ask for help on hard or unusual cases,” he said.

ORBIS, a nonprofit organization based in New York, will spend four weeks in Cuba exchanging hands-on medical skills and knowledge.

More than 21 medical professionals from 10 nations and ORBIS volunteer faculty members from Argentina, Canada, Israel and the United Kingdom have come and gone in Cuba since Feb. 23 and will continue to volunteer there until March 19.

The flying eye plane features an on-board operating room, laser/exam room, sterile room, recovery room, technical training center and a 48-seat classroom equipped with an interactive audio-visual system.

While the operation is in session, doctors and nurses will view the procedure live and interact with the surgeon via a two-way microphone from the interactive classroom.

Surgeries will also be broadcast live to hundreds of participants in a nearby auditorium or classroom.

Crandall has volunteered for the past 20 years and has traveled with ORBIS three times.

He previously traveled to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and Cebu City, Philippines.

“ORBIS is a worthwhile experience for both the volunteer and the host-country physician,” according to Crandall.

When the eye aircraft leaves Cuba, ORBIS will continue to provide local eye-care professionals with ongoing training and mentoring through hospital-based and plane-based training programs, fellowships, Internet-based telemedicine and dissemination of educational materials.

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