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  • Chidozie Uzoezie

Orbis Flying Eye Hospital Lands in Ghana, Come Onboard


On Sunday, 10 November 2019, the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital touched down in Accra, Ghana for a medical outreach program. The aircraft landed with a full medical team consisting of ophthalmologists, theatre nurses, anaesthetists, biomedical engineers and others medical professionals. And just as Ghanaians were still relishing the moment, the MacDonell DC-10 aircraft was transformed into a fully functional and operational eye hospital. The Orbis Flying Eye Hospital (FEH) will be in Ghana for three weeks during which they'll carry out medical interventions in Accra and Kumasi. The programme was flagged off on Wednesday, 13 November, 2019 at the Kotoka International Airport, Accra. Let's take a look at what's onboard the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital and what goes on there.

Founded in 1982, the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital (FEH), is an international non-governmental organization primarily dedicated to preventing blindness and saving sight worldwide. The mobile eye hospital provides advanced medical training to medical practitioners in eye care delivery and treatment of eye problems.

The Flying Eye Hospital is the world’s only ophthalmic teaching hospital on-board an aircraft. It is similar to a land-based hospital and has its own generators, water purification system, as well as early alert monitoring systems.

Registered as N330AU, the Obis Flying Eye Hospital is a converted McDonnell Douglas DC-10 cargo aircraft donated by FedEx to Orbis in 2011. It is unlike any aircraft you’ve seen before. The aircraft was custom-designed to provide the best medical training and technology to health-care professionals and patients. Months of planning went into building customized hospital modules to fit inside the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital aircraft. It turned out to be the world's only fully self-contained, mobile operating theatre and training centre able to take to the skies.

The Flying Eye Hospital originally took to the skies in 1982 aboard a Douglas DC-8 aircraft which was donated by United Airlines. In 1992, the DC-8 was replaced by a DC-10 which was twice the size of the original DC-8. In 2016, the current MD-10 plane replaced the previous DC-10, which was the oldest flying example of its type by then. The MD-10 is the third generation of the Flying Eye Hospital and can fly almost twice as far as its predecessor. The flight crew of the Flying Eye Hospital are active FedEx pilots who fly for ORBIS as volunteers.

The MD-10 features a 46-seat classroom, a state of the art operating room equipped with audio visual technology that transmits live 3D surgeries to students onboard in the classroom as well as people all over the world. And with the 3D technology, observing makes you feel like you're actually in the operating room.

The aircraft also has a laser treatment room, sterilization room and a pre and post surgery recovery room where anesthetic can be administered. And thanks to the telemedicine platform - Cybersight - medical professionals from all over the world can join the training programs onboard the aircraft with the click of a button.

To prepare the Flying Eye Hospital aircraft for departure, it takes the staff a full day to ensure that every item is weighed and that all items are strapped down prior to flight. On arrival at the start of a mission, the Flying Eye Hospital can be readied for use in about 5 hours.

Because of the extra weight due to heavy medical equipment onboard, the aircraft usually doesn’t fly more than eight hours at a time. It would have to make a fuel-stop if the final destination is more than 8 hours. The Orbis Flying Eye Hospital has 22 staff, 18 volunteer pilots from FedEx and 400 volunteer medical staff from 23 different countries, many of whom are teaching at major medical schools around the world.

Since 1982, the Obis Flying Eye Hospital has visited over 78 countries across the world. In Africa, it has visited various countries including Uganda, Kenya, Cameroon, Zambia and Zambia, and more trips to more African countries are planned. This is the third time it's visiting Ghana, having visited in 1990 and in 2006. While in Ghana, over 60 surgeries will be performed onboard the Flying Eye Hospital and over 100 medical practitioners including ophthalmologists, anesthesiologists, optometrist, ophthalmic nurses, biomedical engineers and others will be trained by the team.

Since the first Flying Eye Hospital took to the skies more than thirty years ago, it is estimated that 30 million people with vision impairment have benefited from the various outreach programs. The Flying Eye Hospital continues to navigate the globe and deliver life-changing eye care to this day, and its story is far from over!

If you are happy with their works, you can donate to the Flying Eye Hospital foundation here.

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