Despite the fact that 50-80 per cent of blindness caused by cataract is treatable, cataract is the leading cause of blindness in India. Reason: This health issue is much-ignored. People, especially in lower strata of society, remain unaware of it and hence, rarely visit the eye specialist. “The cost of this operation is just Rs 4,000,” says Dr Sanjiv Gupta, Founder Director, Sight For All Foundation, an organisation that provides succour to cataract patients by offering cataract operations free of cost. The foundation aims at performing 2020 free cataract surgeries by December 31, 2020. “We need to raise funds for doing these operations,” says Dr Gupta.
It is towards this end that Dr Gupta recently undertook a journey to Africa to scale Mt Kilimanjaro. At 5,895 m, Kilimanjaro is often called common man’s Everest and attracts climbers from all over the world. This dormant volcanic mountain is Africa’s tallest mountain and world’s highest free-standing peak.
“Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro was a considerable physical challenge. It involved months of rigorous physical training (functional and weight training with special emphasis on back strengthening exercises) and mental strength to achieve the feat. The climate was very inhospitable with lack of oxygen at the summit, snowstorms and steep climb. The last day of the climb was in the middle of the night. It is sheer fortitude that moves you forward towards your goal. There was a very high risk of high altitude sickness and the trick lay in moving at a very gentle pace, popularly called ‘pole-pole’ in Swahili. The temperature at the base was around 35°C while at the summit it reached -20 °C with a stiff wind,” says the doctor, sharing his experience of the climb.
“Uhuru peak ( Kilimanjaro) is a symbol of freedom of people of Tanzania . This climb was done for Freedom from Blindness caused by cataract,” he says.
Dr Gupta has been doing high altitude treks, including scaling Chadar trek, for the last three-four years. Besides, he also runs marathons to improve endurance and stamina. “I have been able to generate about Rs 2 lakh post Kilimanjaro climb and more funds are expected,” he adds, a tad satisfied with his effort.