Cornea Society News

SPR 2014

Cornea Society is an organization advancing the treatment of corneal disease

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C hristopher J. Rapuano, MD, and his son, Patrick, had a different Christmas than usual last year. They spent the day climbing Africa's highest peak, Mt. Kilimanjaro. Dr. Rapuano said that the experi- ence was a unique father/son adventure for him and Patrick, 22, who has graduated from college and is in the process of applying for medical school. "This was the most physically strenuous thing I've done in a long time, if not ever. I've learned I'm up to that task," said Dr. Rapuano, director of the cornea service, Wills Eye Hospital, Philadelphia. "I also learned—I know it's kind of cliché—that life is short. If you don't take time to do special things like this, you'll never do them." The climb took seven days with a support staff of 15. That team included a head guide, assistant guide, cook, and 12 porters. The slow climb was marked by the call of "polay, polay" in Swahili, which the guides tell climbers to pre- vent acute mountain sickness or alti- tude sickness. If climbers are struck by altitude issues from ascending too quickly, their hike can be cut short, even only an hour away from the top, known as the Uhuru summit. The slow ascent provided Dr. Rapuano and his son with a once-in-a- lifetime experience. It was just the two of them and their support staff climb- ing the mountain by day and sleeping on the mountain in a tent by night. "When would we ever spend two and a half weeks together, essentially 24 hours a day?" he said. "Just to be with him—neither of us are the most talka- tive people in the world—but to spend time together was just incredible." Volunteering at Tenwek Hospital The story begins with Dr. Rapuano's second oldest son's volunteer work at Tenwek hospital in Bomet, Kenya in the fall of 2013. Through a connection with Wills Eye Hospital, Patrick was able to work in the ophthalmology department at the hospital under the direction of hospital ophthalmologist Ben Roberts, MD. Patrick helped the hospital modify an electronic health records template and was trained as a surgical tech. He used this training to assist at a cataract outreach program in South Sudan just before the recent civil conflict began in that country. "They did about 250 cataracts in a week there. That was a pretty incredible experience for him," Dr. Rapuano said. At the end of his two and a half months of volunteer time, Dr. Rapuano joined his son in Kenya and saw patients, gave some lectures, and performed corneal transplant surgery for a week at the hospital. The experi- ence was new for him because of the conditions, he said. He called himself a "fairly conservative person" who is happy to be in his comfort zone. "Seeing patients at Tenwek and doing surgery at Tenwek was certainly outside my comfort zone. Doing things without my regular equipment and sometimes with no equipment, the whole situation was very different. Then climbing a mountain was outside my comfort zone. It's not typical for me," he said. Dr. Rapuano and son climb world-famous peak Patrick and Dr. Rapuano standing atop Uhuru Peak, the highest point in Africa Source: Christopher J. Rapuano, MD News A C o r n e a S o c i e t y p u b l i c a t i o n S p r i n g 2 0 1 4 V o l 1 0 , N o . 2 continued on page 3

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