Cataract Camp for Xingu Indians, Brazil
When: June 2018 Weather: 20C warm
Nikon P900 Leica Q
We were fortunate enough to be invited by our friends in Brazil to join in an eye camp expedition to the Mato Grosso area of Brazil, the southern part of Amazonia, where an area of the forest has been set aside for the indigenous Indian natives of the Xingu area. It is a protected area, and not easily accessible. Our friends in Brazil have set up a non-governmental organisation (NGO) called Forest Doctors to provide much needed eye care for these isolated and distant Indian tribes and they make frequent long trips there to screen and identify patients for the surgical expeditions once a year. We were able to join in one of these surgical and screening expeditions….but the journey there especially from Singapore is long and arduous…24 hrs to get to Sao Paolo…internal flight to Brasilia, then tiny single prop aircraft to the fringe town of Canarana (2 hr) where we did the surgeries and then either bus and boat for another day to get into the Xingu area….luckily we were able to charter a small aircraft for the 1.5 hour flight into the Xingu Indigenous Park(XIP)….
approach to the huge city of Sao Paolo
this was our small aircraft for 5 pax from Brasilia to Canarana..
and this was the landing strip in Canarana, 2 hours from Brasilia, a few hundred km south of the XIngu Park
Surgeries were scheduled at this brand new day surgery facility opened by the government to serve the locals….indeed it was so new that no surgeries had ever been done there!
We had to help unload all the equipment and set up the Operating theatres and equipment from scratch…
Getting the OT ready….
just in time for the first surgeries the next day….
Cataract surgeries in progress
Perhaps it was their diet, but the Indian eyes had a high incidence of a condition called IFIS (Idiopathic Floppy Iris Syndrome) which made surgery difficult..notice the unusual ear ring!
Surgery was uneventful and we were able to get through 80 surgeries in the three days that we were there….
Without ophthalmic scrub nurses, we were on our own and scrubbed for each other….industry was generous and loaned us some very good phaco cataract machines and microscopes etc…
Here, the patients were reviewed the next day and they were very happy with the visual improvements gained…
checking the eyes after surgery
checking vision after surgery
The Indian people are flown out of the tribal villages into Canarana and housed in these tents in a governmental building for housing these temporary visitors, called the Casai.
All this was made possible by this wonderful team of young eye surgeons, anaesthetists and support staff from all over Brazil
It was a real privilege for us to join this team of tremendously dedicated professionals delivering quality eye care to the indigenous peoples of Xingu….
A week after we left Canarana, a couple of the doctors took the long bus journey(12hrs) back to Canarana to do a 1 week post-op review to ensure good outcomes…true dedication.
We were able to make two trips into the XIP, the first into an area called Pavuru/Moygu before we did surgeries and another trip to Kamayura after the surgeries. First trip….
our plane approaching the Xingu river at Pavuru
from the air, a typical Xingu settlement near a river or lake, set around a circular clearing, with thatched huts and one or two modern buildings built by the government
our plane taking off after depositing us in Pavuru…
our home for two nights…pitching tents inside, power by generator for a few hours each night….
In the adjacent village of Moygu, we examined the inhabitants, doing refractions, dispensing $1 glasses and screening for more serious conditions requiring surgery….a clinic with a difference
a typical indian hut…
the main hut, housing ten families….
an indian mum and her child happily posing for me in their hut
this being Brazil, the the kids were playing football till the sunset…
Pavuru was very peaceful and this was the river Xingu right next to our hut, where the fish were plenty and wonderful birdwatching ( see my other upcoming post on birding in Xingu)
a morning catch from the Xingu river…a catfish
the butterflies by the river were amazing
After the surgeries, we were invited to visit the village of Kamayura, set on the banks of a beautiful lake…
Map showing the Kamayura tribe area of Xingu Indigenous Park, we approached it from the south, from Canarana
Kamayura as we approached…
this was the welcome we received …local Indians dressed to welcome us….
they put on a wonderful dance to welcome us
our accommodation on the left and the pristine lake
sunset in Kamayura
It doesn’t get much more beautiful than this…
swimming in the lake at sunset, Kamayura
sunrise over the lake at Kamayura
a local tribesman
another dance for us…
they painted our bodies from some berry juice…
local child (picture courtesy of Jun Sakuma)
we ate well that night on Peacock bass fished from the lake
weaving a mat
the kids were fascinated with my binoculars
at the end of each visit there is an event called ‘Moitara’ where the Indians would trade their local art and craft for whatever gifts etc that we had brought for them…..here, our friend Dr Hida giving out sweets to the children….
sunset over Kamayura, Xingu Indigenous Park. So our trip to Xingu ended and we returned directly by a 3 hour flight back to Brasilia…
As our expedition drew to an end, I reflected on the efforts these young people in Brazil had put into this work. For many of us, charitable works or eye camp expeditions only take place when we are older, more financially secure and yet these young doctors started when they were about 30, still building careers…they all went into it wholeheartedly, unreservedly performing surgery of the highest quality to those who needed it most. My friend and I had it easy; we just showed up in Brazil and did some surgery, the locals who did all the background logistics and organisation actually did all the hard work. Their effort is well worth supporting. To Takashi x2, Frank, Nati, Pati, Bruno, Jun, Fabio and all the others in the team who made our visit so special! We will be back….and thank you for letting us speak to the doctors in Sao Paolo University on our way home.