Tuesday, March 26, 2019

A rare chance to get on board the Orbis MD-10 flying hospital

A good friend of ours is one of the leading ophthalmologists in the country and every year he volunteers his time to travel the globe helping others as part of the Orbis organization. Years ago, he told us about a new flying hospital that Orbis had acquired, and I was hoping for the chance to get on board to photograph this amazing MD-10.


The Orbis plane was parked inside the Moffett Field NASA base, in which one needs clearance to get in. Once inside the base (which has been many years for me), we drove around for a couple of minutes to check out the old hanger. Hanger One is one of the world's largest freestanding structures, covering 8 acres and was originally designed to hold large blimps. It is so big that it reportedly had it's own climate inside when covered. It was in disrepair and has since been "unskinned". Google has pledged the money for a complete restoration, but this is not likely to be done until 2025.

Then we continued our drive into the base until we came to the real reason we were there.


Here is the exterior shot of the MD-10.

Before we go inside, let me explain a little about Orbis. Their goal is to transform lives through the prevention and treatment of blindness. Did you know that there are more than 253 million people worldwide who are blind or visually impaired? And 75% of those people are living with conditions that are preventable, treatable or curable, if only they had the resources. Orbis brings those resources! They don't just fly to other countries and do surgical procedures, they teach the local doctors how to do the same procedures so that they can continue to help the locals even after the Orbis people have left.

The plane, which was donated by FedEx, is flown into other countries and parked for 3 weeks per location so that the doctors and other volunteers can do their work. Last year alone, using the plane and other methods, they performed almost 100,000 surgeries and laser treatments in 18 countries.


Before entering the mobile hospital, I took this shot looking down the body of this jumbo jet. Yeah, it looks like almost any other plane...until you get inside.



This is the operating room, which is located about halfway down the cabin. As you can see, it is not much different from any other hospital surgical area.


It isn't until you see outside the operating room window that you see the airplane windows.




This is a wider view of the operating room. If you look closely, you will see many video cameras on the ceiling and throughout the room.


All those cameras are fed into this control room where an AV specialist can determine what is shown in the training room.


This may look like your typical coach class, but this is actually where the local doctors are brought in to watch surgical procedures and learn new techniques.


Towards the back of the plane is the recovery room. They can work on three people at a time, with one in surgery and two in recovery.


In between the surgical room and the recovery room in a teaching lab with some incredible technology inside. (For those photographers out there who are wondering what equipment I used for this shoot, here is what I brought with me. I was using the Canon 1D X Mark II camera, Canon 16-35mm lens, Canon 600 EX-RT flash and the MagMod MagSphere diffuser.)


The volunteer doctors (who come from all over the world) spread their knowledge to doctors who have less technology and are not as well equipped.



Living in Silicon Valley, I have seen and heard many promises of augmented reality. Most of the time, this has been talked about in regards to video games and other entertainment. But to see augmented reality here in the lab was nothing short of amazing. Here, a doctor from Chile, shows me how a doctor can learn how to analyze the human eye on a simulator.


This was the most impressive piece of technology that I saw in the lab. This device lets doctors perform a surgical procedure on a virtual eye. In the image below, you can see the eye sensor, and in the image above, you can see what the doctor is seeing in the scope. He was telling me that the device has haptic feedback so that the doctor feels the same resistance as a real procedure.  That is awesome.


The eye sensor. It may nook look like much here, but what it does is simply amazing.


Here is a photo of me in the cockpit of the MD-10. (Photo credit: Annette Cable)


We stayed for a really nice reception, but before leaving, I wanted to go out and get a couple of shots of the plane at night.


As I walked out to the plane, I noticed that the moon had come out over the plane. I quickly ran back to my camera back and switched from the Canon 16-35mm wide angle lens to the Canon 70-200mm. I set the camera to manual mode (metering for the moon) and used my flash to light the plane.

I would like to thank Dr. Fredrick for giving his time to this cause and along with all the people at Orbis for giving us a chance to see the plane and learn about their organization.  If you would like to know more about Orbis, click HERE.

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1 comment:

Jimmie Washington said...

Very cool story thank for sharing, glad to see there are vechicle like this and the Mercy ship that travel to world to help other