ABOUT THE FILM

 

This film is about the doctors of the Proctor Foundation and ORBIS International who travel the world to eradicate a devastating eye disease called trachoma. Trachoma is a bacterial infection of the eye that, if untreated, will cause blindness. After multiple infections the eyelid scars to a degree where the eyelashes turn inward toward the eye and scratch the cornea until blindness occurs. The infected person goes blind little by little, blink by blink, scrape by scrape. This film will follow the history of the disease, the treatment, and this special group of doctors as they journey to Africa to eradicate the disease.

 

Trachoma is one of the earliest documented eye diseases, with written references in Egypt from the year 15 BCE. Today, over 41 million people are infected and 8 million suffer from vision loss. Most of these cases occur in developing countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. It is essentially a disease of poverty, caused by lack of effective sanitation, lack of medical infrastructure, and passed from person to person. Those infected who lose their sight become part of a grim ripple effect that impacts their families and communities. People who were supporting families become burdens in areas where resources are already very scarce, adding to the cycle of poverty.

The doctors of the Proctor Foundation travel from San Francisco to some of the most remote villages in the Amhara Region of Ethiopia to do their research and curative work. They pack up their supplies and, after 22 hours of flying, travel through some of the most beautiful, remote, and difficult areas of East Africa. They arrive at the villages and do their work, which consists of treatment with antibiotics and data-gathering about the efficacy of treatments from their previous research visits. The data they gather is compelling. Not only is trachoma on the decline, unexpected results have emerged. One example of unintended benefit is that infant mortality in some areas has dropped by half. These are good people doing good work.

The other side of treatment is restorative surgery. Once the disease reaches a certain stage and the patient’s eyelashes turn inward, simple antibiotics will not help. At this point the doctors of ORBIS International are called upon. They have clinics in many parts of the developing world and an airliner modified into a flying surgical clinic to reach extremely remote areas. These doctors take up where the Proctor Foundation leaves off; surgically repairing damaged eyes and restoring sight to those who have lost it.

This film illuminates the good work these doctors do, the remote areas where they work, and the people they treat. The film also examines the nature of philanthropic, humanitarian work and the need for such work in a world of disparate levels of wealth and access to medical care. It is a story of good will and making the world a better place, one person at a time.