Optegra surgeon makes Kilimanjaro charity trip

Mr Mark Wevill has completed a lifetime ambition by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with his family. He also contributed to the region’s local eye health care while on his visit.
While on his two-week trip, Mr Wevill who lives in Solihull and is a surgeon at Optegra Eye Hospital Birmingham, took with him a selection of cataract surgery instruments, donated by Optegra Eye Health Care. 
Mr Wevill said: “I visited doctors Makupa and Maro at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre in Moshe, Tanzania, which is at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro.
“I was surprised and impressed at the skills of the surgeons; the vast rural outreach programme where highly trained nursing staff travel out to patients, and the quality of eye care provided to the region. We hope the cataract surgery instruments donated by Optegra are helpful.”
Mr Wevill, who has worked as a surgeon for over 20 years, is originally from South Africa, and has long held the climb as a personal challenge.
He is also passionate about the high volume of cataracts in Africa which cause blindness. Whilst in the UK people take it for granted that they can treat a cataract in their eye, in Africa, cataracts are a major cause of blindness.  This is due to a number of factors including lack of equipment, funding and also the challenge of people living in such remote areas.
The World Health Organisation calculated that the number of visually impaired people worldwide is in excess of 161 million, and cataract is the leading cause, accounting for 47.8 per cent of cases[i].
Mr Wevill explains: “I have previously visited Gambia, Uganda, South Africa and other places because of my interest in eye care on this beautiful continent.  I got in touch with some local charities which work in Africa and saw there was an opportunity to bring some equipment which they can make great use of.
“In the UK, legislation now dictates that we have to use disposable single-use instruments wherever possible for cataract surgery, or titanium kit which can be sterilised.  However, we had some stunningly beautiful, quality kit at Optegra which cannot be used any more.  I was able to take this out to Tanzania so they now have top class kit to help them treat local people.”
Mr Wevill has written about the great problems with cataract surgery and the challenge of preventing blindness caused in this way.  The main difficulties are not limited to the surgery itself, but also include surgeon training and getting patients to the care as this requires an escort which in turn affects their employment.  In addition, traditional healers, which are plentiful in Africa, rub ointments into eyes and this often delays treatment.
Mark travelled with his two teenage daughters and his wife who is a GP.
[i] Mark Wevill; Yanoff and Duker Eye Surgery: Epidemiology, Pathophysiology Causes, Morphology and Visual Effects of Cataract

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