Tucked into a hidden valley behind the Ganesh Himal, the village lies in that peninsula of Nepal that juts out into the Tibetan plateau. Tsum's isolation from both Nepal and Tibet is complete. It is a two week walk to the nearest road and the news of the king's dramatic capitulation didn't even create a ripple of interest at the Rachen Nunnery.
But what did catch the people's attention was the Mi-17 carrying opthalmologist Suman Thapa of the Tilganga Eye Centre and his team as it landed at the nunnery for an eye camp.
The equipment and supplies were unloaded and set up, registration and testing began in a carnival atmosphere. Over the next two days screening continued and the operations began.
Patients got their pre-op drops, eye-lashes were trimmed and they were led off for the anaesthetic. The nuns explained in the local Tsumpa dialect that the patients were to lie still after the injection, while a weight was placed on the eye as the anaesthesia kicked in.
The 'operating theatre' was remarkably dust free, smelt of Dettol and had an operating table, doctor's chair and shining modern surgical microscope all flown in from Kathmandu. Dr Thapa made a small incision into the eye with his diamond knife, removed the cataract and replaced it with a Tilganga-made lens. A few minutes later, a patch was placed over the eye and volunteer nuns led the patient to the ward.
The following morning when the team removed the dressing and examined the eyes was the moment when the miracle was revealed. Patients realised they could see their relatives, see the mountains, see where they were walking, see a whole new life ahead of them. Patients are told not to drink alcohol, and one Gurung woman couldn't believe that the doctor had given her vision only to take away her rakshi. Still, she danced off in delight and gratitude when it was time to head for home.
THE GIFT OF SIGHT: Dr Suman Thapa checks patient\'s eyes the morning after surgery when many found they could see again. The Tilganga team with the finest group of patients to be discharged in Tsum recently.
As a new government in Kathmandu prepares to write a new constitution, one can only hope that in the future, remote areas like the Tsum Valley will also benefit. In the meantime, a reasonable amount of well-directed funds can enable a handful of young, dedicated professionals to completely change the lives of people in remote parts of Nepal.
Camilla Corona and Frances
Howland in Tsum