Founder - Dr. Lucy Mathen
Lucy Mathen retrained as a doctor after 16 years as a journalist. This life-changing decision was taken whilst interviewing a medic in Afghanistan in 1988. She became an eye specialist.
In 2000 she took time off from her NHS job in the UK to travel the breadth of rural north India before deciding to focus on Bihar, India’s poorest state.
‘I found hospital after hospital with expensive equipment lying idle, unable to offer cataract surgery in areas in which cataract blindness was endemic. Why? Because of a lack of eye surgeons. It was tragic. But I could do something about it. I could provide those missing surgeons. Mindful of the dire poverty of people in Bihar, from the very beginning we have had a no office, no salaries, no expenses policy.’
18 years down the line, over 400,000 people have had their sight restored; the surgery is now performed by local doctors supported by skilled nurses. Our specialists continue to train on site in rural and small town settings. Curing the blind is fantastic in itself. But there was always a dual aim – to establish community eye hospitals run by and for local people and able to offer the full range of ophthalmic services.
By the end of the year 2020 we will have achieved these complementary aims. We will have eliminated the backlog of blind people in these areas – ‘cleared the waiting room’ – and we will hand over to our remarkable Indian teams.
Respect for local initiative and freedom from time-sapping bureaucracy allows local teams to flourish. They will provide the long term solution in Bihar.
The story of Second Sight’s idiosyncratic path is told in a book written by Lucy Mathen - A Runaway Goat: curing blindness in forgotten India. A sequel will be published in 2019