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Second Suns
Cover of Second Suns
Second Suns
Two Doctors and Their Amazing Quest to Restore Sight and Save Lives
Borrow
From the co-author of Three Cups of Tea comes the inspiring story of two very different doctors—one from the United States, the other from Nepal—united in a common mission: to rid the world of preventable blindness.

In this transporting book, David Oliver Relin shines a light on the work of Geoffrey Tabin and Sanduk Ruit, gifted ophthalmologists who have dedicated their lives to restoring sight to some of the world's most isolated, impoverished people through the Himalayan Cataract Project, an organization they founded in 1995. Tabin was the high-achieving bad boy of Harvard Medical School, an accomplished mountain climber and adrenaline junkie as brilliant as he was unconventional. Ruit grew up in a remote Nepalese village, where he became intimately acquainted with the human costs of inadequate access to health care. Together they found their life's calling: tending to the afflicted people of the Himalayas, a vast mountainous region with an alarmingly high incidence of cataract blindness.

Second Suns takes us from improvised plywood operating tables in villages without electricity or plumbing to state-of-the-art surgical centers at major American universities where these two driven men are restoring sight—and hope—to patients from around the world. With their revolutionary, inexpensive style of surgery, Tabin and Ruit have been able to cure tens of thousands—all for about twenty dollars per operation. David Oliver Relin brings the doctors' work to vivid life through poignant portraits of patients helped by the surgery, from old men who cannot walk treacherous mountain trails unaided to cataract-stricken children who have not seen their mothers' faces for years. With the dexterity of a master storyteller, Relin shows the profound emotional and practical impact that these operations have had on patients' lives.

Second Suns is the moving, unforgettable story of how two men with a shared dream are changing the world, one pair of eyes at a time.
Praise for Second Suns

"As miracles go, it's hard to beat making the blind see. Yet that's exactly what the eye surgeon Dr. Geoffrey Tabin can do. He services poor people in the developing world who have developed cataracts—a clouding of the lens of the eye that is the world's leading cause of blindness. . . . Second Suns is a hopeful work, a profile of two doctors who have dedicated their lives to bringing light to those in darkness."Time

"A compelling and inspiring book . . . Second Suns portrays heroic health care delivered under harrowing conditions: Ruit and his teams carry their equipment on multi-day treks up steep mountain trails, sometimes hiking at night with flashlights or head lamps, to reach settlements where they typically spend several days operating on hundreds of villagers in makeshift surgical theaters."The Washington Post

"Second Suns should be required reading for anybody with an interest in humanitarian philanthropy—or, for that matter, a desire to feel a little better about the world."Outside

"A detailed, heartfelt account of the work of [two] dedicated pioneers."Kirkus Reviews
From the Hardcover edition.
From the co-author of Three Cups of Tea comes the inspiring story of two very different doctors—one from the United States, the other from Nepal—united in a common mission: to rid the world of preventable blindness.

In this transporting book, David Oliver Relin shines a light on the work of Geoffrey Tabin and Sanduk Ruit, gifted ophthalmologists who have dedicated their lives to restoring sight to some of the world's most isolated, impoverished people through the Himalayan Cataract Project, an organization they founded in 1995. Tabin was the high-achieving bad boy of Harvard Medical School, an accomplished mountain climber and adrenaline junkie as brilliant as he was unconventional. Ruit grew up in a remote Nepalese village, where he became intimately acquainted with the human costs of inadequate access to health care. Together they found their life's calling: tending to the afflicted people of the Himalayas, a vast mountainous region with an alarmingly high incidence of cataract blindness.

Second Suns takes us from improvised plywood operating tables in villages without electricity or plumbing to state-of-the-art surgical centers at major American universities where these two driven men are restoring sight—and hope—to patients from around the world. With their revolutionary, inexpensive style of surgery, Tabin and Ruit have been able to cure tens of thousands—all for about twenty dollars per operation. David Oliver Relin brings the doctors' work to vivid life through poignant portraits of patients helped by the surgery, from old men who cannot walk treacherous mountain trails unaided to cataract-stricken children who have not seen their mothers' faces for years. With the dexterity of a master storyteller, Relin shows the profound emotional and practical impact that these operations have had on patients' lives.

Second Suns is the moving, unforgettable story of how two men with a shared dream are changing the world, one pair of eyes at a time.
Praise for Second Suns

"As miracles go, it's hard to beat making the blind see. Yet that's exactly what the eye surgeon Dr. Geoffrey Tabin can do. He services poor people in the developing world who have developed cataracts—a clouding of the lens of the eye that is the world's leading cause of blindness. . . . Second Suns is a hopeful work, a profile of two doctors who have dedicated their lives to bringing light to those in darkness."Time

"A compelling and inspiring book . . . Second Suns portrays heroic health care delivered under harrowing conditions: Ruit and his teams carry their equipment on multi-day treks up steep mountain trails, sometimes hiking at night with flashlights or head lamps, to reach settlements where they typically spend several days operating on hundreds of villagers in makeshift surgical theaters."The Washington Post

"Second Suns should be required reading for anybody with an interest in humanitarian philanthropy—or, for that matter, a desire to feel a little better about the world."Outside

"A detailed, heartfelt account of the work of [two] dedicated pioneers."Kirkus Reviews
From the Hardcover edition.
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  • From the book

    Chapter 1

    See You

    This world is blinded by darkness. Few can see. . . . Become a lamp unto yourself. --from the last teaching of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha

    There is the Nepal of myth, the ice-and-rock realm of Mount Everest, the roof of the world. Then there is the country where most Nepalese actually live. I was still unfamiliar with that other, more earthly, Nepal when I first came to the Khumbu.

    I had hiked up to the village of Thame, at twelve thousand feet, with Apa Sherpa. He stood a wiry five foot three and weighed perhaps 120 pounds. Apa's hair was cropped close, and his head was a thing of beauty--smooth and sun-browned like an exotic nut. Looking at him, you'd never guess he was one of the world's greatest athletes. But by the age of fifty, Apa had climbed to the top of Everest twenty times; no one had ever stood on the sharp peak of the earth's highest point more often.

    Apa had invited me to Thame to meet his family and gather material about his career in the mountains, hoping that I would write a book about him. I was intrigued, not simply because of his high-altitude achievements but because, unlike many publicity-seeking Western mountaineers, Apa, like most Sherpas, climbed not for glory but to feed his family. He had also dedicated his most recent expeditions to raising money for the schools that surrounded the mountain his people know as Chomolungma, Goddess Mother of the World, and to raising awareness of the toll that global warming was taking on the Khumbu's receding glaciers.

    By the time I arrived, the five-room school Sir Edmund Hillary had built in Apa's village was planning to lay off two of its teachers because of funding shortages, which would force the older students to walk six hours each day if they wanted to continue attending classes. And the lower portion of Thame had recently been washed away when a lake of glacial meltwater overran its rim and thundered through the valley where Apa had been raised. His family's home had been spared. So had the house next door, which belonged to the family of Tenzing Norgay, the first person to step onto the summit of Everest, alongside Hillary, in 1953.

    Apa Sherpa had taken advantage of his prominence as a mountaineer to move his family from Nepal to suburban Salt Lake City, where his three children could count on a quality education. But his American dream hadn't panned out as he'd expected; Apa's attempt to create a line of outdoor clothing had crash-landed shortly after its launch. When he emailed me to introduce himself, he was working in a metal shop, stamping out road signs for Utah's highways. Apa wasn't bitter. He described his achievements on Everest with such matter-of-fact modesty that I agreed to accompany him to Nepal on his next expedition.

    As the stone and ice immensities of the Himalaya thrust into view around every twist in the trail, Apa led me over swaying suspension bridges and up steep rock staircases with effortless grace. And as we traveled together, he proved to be one of the kindest people I'd ever met. Whenever my breathing became ragged, he'd put a hand on my shoulder. "Slowly, slowly," he'd say, guiding me to a seat on the nearest stone wall or to a bench at a tea house, where he'd pretend that he, too, was anxious to rest.

    At altitude, the air was beautifully crisp, the peaks fairy-tale white. The sky draped over the low stone homes of Thame was the unblemished blue of tourist brochures. Each morning I'd wake to the gentle alarm of yak bells. Cocooned in my warm sleeping bag, I'd open my eyes, peer through puffs of my breath, and watch wood smoke from breakfast fires drift across low stone...

About the Author-
  • David Oliver Relin is the co-author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Three Cups of Tea, which has been translated into more than two dozen languages. He has received numerous awards for his work, including the Kiriyama Prize and a James A. Michener Fellowship. He died in November 2012.

Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine This fascinating work details the work of doctors Geoffrey Tabin (U.S.) and Sanduk Ruit (Nepal) as they travel to isolated and impoverished parts of the globe in an attempt to rid the world of preventable blindness. It's an inspirational story and a great read. Narrator Rob Shapiro has a deep, round-toned voice that rattles the lower half of the audio register but is also supple enough to display elasticity. Shapiro speaks with authority and confidence, and his reading has a spare quality that allows the text to stand out. At times, however, he loses focus, and his voice becomes lethargic, his reading lackluster. While the listening experience would have been improved by sustained energy throughout, overall his narration is successful. R.I.G. (c) AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine
  • Kirkus Reviews

    "As miracles go, it's hard to beat making the blind see. Yet that's exactly what the eye surgeon Dr. Geoffrey Tabin can do. He services poor people in the developing world who have developed cataracts--a clouding of the lens of the eye that is the world's leading cause of blindness. . . . Second Suns is a hopeful work, a profile of two doctors who have dedicated their lives to bringing light to those in darkness."--Time

    "A compelling and inspiring book . . . Second Suns portrays heroic health care delivered under harrowing conditions: Ruit and his teams carry their equipment on multi-day treks up steep mountain trails, sometimes hiking at night with flashlights or head lamps, to reach settlements where they typically spend several days operating on hundreds of villagers in makeshift surgical theaters."--The Washington Post

    "Second Suns should be required reading for anybody with an interest in humanitarian philanthropy--or, for that matter, a desire to feel a little better about the world."--Outside

    "A detailed, heartfelt account of the work of [two] dedicated pioneers."

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Second Suns
Two Doctors and Their Amazing Quest to Restore Sight and Save Lives
David Oliver Relin
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