Project Theia is a 501(c)(3) organization based in Pittsburgh. Our mission is to provide surgical mission, education and resources to various locales globally in the field of facial reconstructive surgery to better lives. Since our existence, we have traveled to Ghana, India and St Lucia. We recently completed our first trip to Kenya where we provided ophthalmic care to the local community of Ngong. The organization of this trip was made possible by the collaboration of various partners both local to Pittsburgh and Ngong, Kenya.
Brother’s Brother Foundation supported us with medical supplies and resources. Hekima Place hosted us in Kenya. The Rotary Club chapters of Ngong Hills and Ongata Rongai along with the sub-county hospital of Ngong Hills provided volunteers and the space to assist us with the medical camp.
The following blog posts contain our reflections of the trip. – by Jenny Y. Yu, MD, FACS, co-founder, Project Theia
Day 1: by Sohani Amarasekera, MD , resident physician, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
On our first full day in Kenya, we woke up early to make our way to the Ngong Hills region to begin a week-long adventure with Project Theia.
We were warmly greeted by multiple members of the hospital and received a tour of the hospital to get a better understanding of the services offered. After an opening ceremony attended by the local health minister, the medical camp was officially declared open.
The Rotary Club of Ngong Hills had advertised throughout the region that we would be providing free vision care. We did not know in advance how many patients would register for the camp. To our surprise, and as a testament to the hard work of Rotary Club members, more than 400 patients showed up on our first day. Working with limited resources, we attached vision charts to trees, and members of our team helped to prepare patients for examination. With the help of our wonderful local interpreters, we were able to obtain basic patient histories, and all patients received anterior and posterior segment eye exams.
Figure. The volunteers from the local Rotaract Clubs.
Source: Project Theia
Within a few short hours, we began to notice several important trends. Most of the patients we saw lacked basic vision care, and numerous patients demonstrated refractive amblyopia, dense, visually significant cataracts, and evidence of untreated refractive error, presbyopia, uveitis and open-globe injuries. We learned firsthand how access to care was limited by logistical constraints such as expenses and traveling distances. We educated patients on the need for UV protection and precautions to take when working or playing outside. We quickly identified numerous patients for whom we would be able to offer surgical services, while others would require long-term evaluation and follow-up with local ophthalmologists. It was particularly rewarding to provide the first ophthalmic exam that many patients had ever received. By the end of the day, we had already seen 200 patients and had an efficient process in place to see our remaining patients.
From there, we made the short trip back to Hekima Place where we ate dinner with the girls living at the orphanage. The girls quickly made us feel at home and welcomed us into their daily routine. While getting to know the girls, we were each struck by their incredible resilience, strength of character and confidence.
I was truly grateful for the opportunity to experience the wonderful spirit of the Kenyan people firsthand and to use my ophthalmology background to play a small role in helping provide vision care to this underserved population.
Overall, it was a truly inspiring and invigorating first day in Kenya.