Flying Eye Hospital is back at EAA AirVenture

Local News

OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV)-It’s been on missions to nearly 100 countries, performing life-changing eye procedures on millions of people since the program began in 1982. 

This week, the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital is in Oshkosh at EAA AirVenture. 

“We like to get the airplane out there and have people see it, see what we do and hopefully help us continue the program,” says Chief Pilot for Orbis International Gary Dyson.

The plane travels all around the world. Doctors perform eye procedures on people who need them. They also teach local doctors the skills they need to do the procedures themselves. While the surgeries are taking place, local doctors watch on a monitor set up in the plane’s classroom.

“Somebody will come up to me from Egypt (at conventions he goes to) and say hey Dr. Vrabec I did 10 transplants last month and they all did great and that is really as rewarding as helping an individual person,” says ophthalmologist Michael Vrabec.

In just the last five years, doctors with the Flying Eye Hospital have done nearly 14 million screenings and examinations and 70,000 surgeries on children. They have done 352,000 surgeries in total in the last five years.

Doctors give children a teddy bear after procedures.

“They (the teddy bears) usually have an eyepatch on so that the kids can feel like they have kin with somebody since they usually leave the place with an eyepatch on,” says Dr. Annette Giangiacomo.

The Flying Eye Hospital has several Wisconsin connections.

Doctor Vrabec is from Appleton. Doctor Giangicomo is from Milwaukee. This is the third time the Flying Eye Hospital has visited EAA AirVenture.

“It’s amazing what the Flying Eye Hospital is able to do, it brings together nations, it brings together people,” says Dr. Vrabec.

Flying Eye Hospital doctors say there are 43 million people living with blindness and 295 million people living with moderate to severe visual impairment. They say 77 percent of these cases are completely preventable or treatable. 

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