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Second Suns: Two Doctors and Their Amazing Quest to Restore Sight and Save Lives

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From the co-author of Three Cups of Tea comes the inspiring story of two very different doctors—one from the United States, the other from Nepal—united in a common to rid the world of preventable blindness.
In this transporting book, David Oliver Relin shines a light on the work of Geoffrey Tabin and Sanduk Ruit, gifted ophthalmologists who have dedicated their lives to restoring sight to some of the world’s most isolated, impoverished people through the Himalayan Cataract Project, an organization they founded in 1995. Tabin was the high-achieving bad boy of Harvard Medical School, an accomplished mountain climber and adrenaline junkie as brilliant as he was unconventional. Ruit grew up in a remote Nepalese village, where he became intimately acquainted with the human costs of inadequate access to health care. Together they found their life’s tending to the afflicted people of the Himalayas, a vast mountainous region with an alarmingly high incidence of cataract blindness.
Second Suns takes us from improvised plywood operating tables in villages without electricity or plumbing to state-of-the-art surgical centers at major American universities where these two driven men are restoring sight—and hope—to patients from around the world. With their revolutionary, inexpensive style of surgery, Tabin and Ruit have been able to cure tens of thousands—all for about twenty dollars per operation. David Oliver Relin brings the doctors’ work to vivid life through poignant portraits of patients helped by the surgery, from old men who cannot walk treacherous mountain trails unaided to cataract-stricken children who have not seen their mothers’ faces for years. With the dexterity of a master storyteller, Relin shows the profound emotional and practical impact that these operations have had on patients’ lives.
Second Suns is the moving, unforgettable story of how two men with a shared dream are changing the world, one pair of eyes at a time.

Praise for Second Suns
“As miracles go, it’s hard to beat making the blind see. Yet that’s exactly what the eye surgeon Dr. Geoffrey Tabin can do. He services poor people in the developing world who have developed cataracts—a clouding of the lens of the eye that is the world’s leading cause of blindness. . . . Second Suns is a hopeful work, a profile of two doctors who have dedicated their lives to bringing light to those in darkness.” — Time
“A compelling and inspiring book . . . Second Suns portrays heroic health care delivered under harrowing Ruit and his teams carry their equipment on multi-day treks up steep mountain trails, sometimes hiking at night with flashlights or head lamps, to reach settlements where they typically spend several days operating on hundreds of villagers in makeshift surgical theaters.” — The Washington Post
“ Second Suns should be required reading for anybody with an interest in humanitarian philanthropy—or, for that matter, a desire to feel a little better about the world.” — Outside
“A detailed, heartfelt account of the work of [two] dedicated pioneers.” — Kirkus Reviews

432 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2013

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David Oliver Relin

6 books18 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 192 reviews
Profile Image for Donna.
3,906 reviews22 followers
April 10, 2017
3.5 stars

This book is nonfiction about two doctors who felt such a drive to help others by performing cataract surgery on those in impoverished areas (mainly Nepal). They perfected this type of surgery and changed lives. Some of these stories were so powerful and touching.

There was a lot of rambling when it came to their personal lives. I was a little perturbed by this at first, but these doctors grew on me. They led interesting lives and overall, it truly showed their dedication, but it was more than just dedication. It was a choice to do what they did and then they perfected it. I admire that. So I'll round up to 4 stars.
69 reviews12 followers
May 15, 2013
I absolutely loved this story from start to finish. Relin is a great author. I was rather saddened to learn to that amidst all the controversy that surrounded the veracity of Three Cups of Tea he had taken his life this past December. In Second Suns, Relin follows Tabin and Ruit throughout the Himalayas and Africa as they attempt to eradicate preventable blindness. The story of both of these men is an incredible story in itself. Ruit was born in a remote Nepalese village. As a bored little boy who always seemed to be getting into trouble his father hiked for days to take him to the closest school. Tabin is just a likeable eccentric. As a pre-med student he was introduced to mountain climbing and had a difficult time deciding whether attending classes or taking off for his next pitch was more important. Together these men performed cataract surgeries in some of the most remote areas with less than ideal medical conditions.

The book captures the joy of the thousands of patients who have their sight and lives restored. For many of these individuals having limited vision meant being confined to their rooms. There is no room for error on the side of a mountain if one cannot see where to put their foot. It is shameful to think that millions live in darkness when having their vision restored is an easy 10 minute procedure.

The book also focuses on the medical industry and their goal of making money vs. helping others. I recognize that we all need to pay the bills. However I find it despicable that lenses can be made in India and other countries for about $4 vs the cost of having them made in a Western country. In the beginning of Ruit career he trained under an Australian physician who exposed the marked different between medical care to Aborigines vs. whites. He died early from cancer but his dream to have lenses made at a fraction of the cost was fulfilled. Ruit and Tabin attend a conference in Hong Kong where many doctors are only interested in gathering the sag from large pharmaceutical companies and paying attention to devices that will increase their profits. As a keynote speaker Ruit who discusses how the surgery can be done safely and successfully Ruit's audience is a small group of 11 doctors.

Profile Image for Jill.
672 reviews6 followers
August 17, 2013
"Second Suns" is the inspiring story of Dr. Sanduk Ruit of Nepal, and Dr. Geoff Tabin of the U.S., who formed the Himalaya Cataract Project with the goal of eliminating preventable blindness in Nepal, one of the poorest countries on earth. Cataracts are the leading cause of preventable blindness among the world's poor, and have been essentially cured in the western world for many years. The author, David Relin, spent over 4 years researching and writing "Second Suns", during which time he took 11 separate trips to interview the doctors and watch them work, and occasionally even assisted during the surgeries.

Dr. Sanduk Ruit, from a poor village family in Nepal, is calm, deliberate and disciplined. He developed and perfected a highly efficient assembly-line cataract surgery technique that allowed him to operate on up to 12 patients per hour, hour after hour without breaks. He opened a manufacturing facility in Kathmundu to produce intraocular lenses, manufactured at a cost of ~$5, rather than the several hundred dollars that they cost to import from the U.S. Ruit has taught his surgical techniques to many other surgeons in impoverished areas so that they could carry on the work. He believed it was their duty to go to where the need was the greatest, since the neediest people would never be able to travel to distant cities with medical centers. Tabin called him "the finest surgeon I have ever seen". Ruit's skill was challenged by highly rated surgeons from more modern countries, and each came away in awe of what Ruit was able to accomplish so efficiently with so little in the way of equipment and facilities.

Dr. Geoff Tabin couldn't have been more different from Ruit. He came from an accomplished, privileged and educated family. Tabin was a Harvard graduate, and was a rash, extroverted, impulsive, risk-taking mountain climber. Soon after graduating with his medical degree, Tabin witnessed cataract surgery in Nepal and when he saw the tears of joy running down the face of a woman whose sight was restored, he knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life; however he put aside that dream for a few more years to focus on mountaineering.

Ruit and Tabin formed the Himalaya Cataract Project in 1995, serving those in some of the most isolated regions of the world. Rates of preventable blindness in Nepal were among the highest in the world. Blind people become such a burden on their families that they are often shunted aside like animals, forgotten and neglected. Cataract surgery gives them their humanity back. Restoring their sight releases them from the captivity of blindness, returns them from a world where they live in darkness to the world of light.

Both doctors are highly committed to their project and both know that they are absolutely doing the thing they were put on earth to do. 75% of the 40 million people worldwide blinded by cataracts could easily have their sight restored. Dollar for dollar, cataract surgery is the single most effective medical intervention in the world. In just 15 years, Ruit and Tabin were able to wipe out the worst cases of cataracts in Nepal and by that time were seeing patients with far less advanced cases - they were actually catching the cataracts before they deteriorated into full blindness. Building upon their success in Nepal, HCP began to transfer their knowledge, training local surgeons and creating centers of ophthalmic excellence in other countries. The program has been expanded to Bhutan, Tibet, Pakistan, China, Thailand, Vietnam, India, North Korea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, South Sudan, and Rwanda. Neither Ruit nor Tabin has ever drawn a salary from HCP (both have independent medical practices).

In addition to the author's research and storytelling expertise, I enjoyed his sometimes lyrical writing style. For instance, he wrote on one of his many trips to Nepal: "Each morning I'd wake to the gentle alarm of yak bells. Cocooned in my warm sleeping bag, I'd open my eyes, peer through puffs of my breath, and watch wood smoke from breakfast fires drift across low stone walls that divided pastures from potato fields. On one side, shaggy black pack animals foraged for grass shoots with delicate lips. On the other, slender plants angled toward the sun, pale green with new growth."

Relin also has a way of injecting humor into some serious situations. He recounts the story of a Nepalese woman, who upon having the bandages removed after her cataract surgery, and seeing her husband for the first time in years, castigated him for still wearing the shirt that she had last seen him in - apparently women are the same everywhere.

It would have been nice to include in the book a few pictures of Ruit, Tabin, some of their cured patients and perhaps a map of some of the most remote villages that they visited. I went to the website, cureblindness.org, to find out more about how they promote the HCP organization and to view photographs and videos of their triumphs. When you see the toothless smiles, gnarled hands and ragged dress of those whose sight is restored after the surgical removal of their cataracts, you will instantly comprehend the significance of what these two committed medical ambassadors have accomplished.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this uplifting story of how much good two focused individuals could accomplish with sheer grit and determination. They have touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of blind people by now, and will continue to do so through the many doctors they have trained. A sad footnote is that David Relin (who co-authored "Three Cups of Tea"), took his own life in November 2012 after submitting "Second Suns" to the publisher. His remarkable facility as an author, researcher and story-teller is now lost.
Profile Image for Jennifer Hughes.
853 reviews30 followers
July 29, 2016
I feel so guilty giving this book two stars. This is an amazing story of doctors doing incredible things to change the world. I have the greatest admiration for the people who are helping to rid the world of preventable cataract blindness in the poorest countries. But I have been trying to read this for six weeks now and just can't get slog any further than the first third of the book. I apologize to my friend who asked me to read it. I just can't finish.

Is it just me? The author includes so many characters and provides so much information to sort through that I feel bogged down in the quicksand of irrelevant details. I don't care what they ate for breakfast. I don't care what was said in the cocktail party conversation. I want to know the story of what these doctors are actually DOING and backstories of patients. I would love to read this book if it were edited down by 1/3-1/2. Maybe I just need a dumbed-down, junior version! (The author did that very thing for his Three Cups of Tea: Young Reader's Edition, but I'm not going to try reading it after this experience!)

To find out more about this very worthy project to bring sight to the needlessly blind, I highly recommend you visit http://www.cureblindness.org/ . Now I won't feel so guilty about not liking the book since you can go find out more about the actual organization and what you can do to support them!
Profile Image for Bob Nichols.
889 reviews292 followers
March 12, 2020
This is a good book describing the dedicated work of a Nepali eye doctor whose pioneering surgery restored sight to many Nepalis across the country. The pioneering part apparently involves a technique that is both quicker and less trauma-inducing to the patients, leading to their quicker recovery. The book also features an American eye doctor who, later, joined forces with the Nepali doctor (the author features both equally, in part because of their strongly contrasting personalities, but it was the Nepali doctor that was the founder and leader of this effort). Their work continues to this day in Nepal through the Himalayan Cataract Project, but they have extended their work to other poor countries.

The book was sent to me by a friend. It was interesting to learn that the family of this Nepali doctor had resettled in a village in eastern Nepal at about the same time I lived there. The book was interesting and well-written. Unfortunately, the author died in 2012 in Oregon (got hit by a train).
Profile Image for Melissa.
1,216 reviews61 followers
May 8, 2013
**This review is part of the Amazon Vine Program**

So, despite it being mentioned in this book that the work of the people in it has been featured on television programs and numerous articles, I'd never heard of any of them before this book. And that's really a shame, because what they are doing is so fantastic that it should be a constant topic of conversation everywhere. Hopefully, this book being published can change that.

The author, Relin, is a journalist who has worked on other books (most notably, Three Cups of Tea). In this one, he chronicles the work of Geoffrey Tabin and Sanduk Ruit, two doctors who have teamed together over the past couple of decades to restore sight to the numerous poor blind in the Himalayas, and then on to other countries. Their organization, Himalayan Cataract Project, was founded in 1995 and since then has reached out to Africa, India, Nepal, Bhutan, China, and so many other countries where these men have performed a simple but effective surgery to replace cataracts with a cheaply made clear lens and give back sight to so many people who wouldn't have had the chance otherwise. The book also goes over their early careers and lives and what drew them to this line of work.

The sad passing of Relin in November 2012 is made even more tragic by the amount of work he has placed into this book. Relin takes the backseat but I think even he failed to realize what a difference he made just in writing this book. Sure he wasn't the one performing the surgeries, but by showing the work of these two doctors he's probably gained them tons of support they need that they wouldn't have gotten otherwise. He's brought their cause to light and to a wide audience of people. And that is something admirable and wonderful. Tabin and Ruit, the two doctors featured in this book are also pretty spectacular people as well. While I didn't enjoy reading about Tabin as much as I did Ruit (Ruit's background and personality was more engaging to me) I recognize that they are both experts in their field and obviously filled with generous hearts and ambitions. The way they are presented in this book is very real (Ruit's temper and Tabin's bouncing around) and they aren't perfect by any means. But they're such good people you can forgive them their imperfections. And the people they surround themselves with are all pretty extraordinary as well.

The book is very well done. While I thought the pace could have been better at the beginning of the book, it really engages you in the middle and end and you keep reading to see how many more lives are changed by these doctors. The beginning was mostly about Tabin and his path to becoming a doctor, and seeing as how I'm not a climber, it didn't really resonate with me and hold my interest. In contrast, Ruit's meager roots and how he achieved his success was very inspiring and held my attention. And the work they did together was also just as interesting. For some readers, the descriptions of the eye surgery and occasional mentions of blood might be off-putting, but I think they just show what kind of conditions the doctors are working with and how well they do their jobs despite adversity.

This is definitely a book to read if you enjoy inspiring stories and people who are making a difference in the world. Truly, I hope to hear more and more about the work Tabin and Ruit are doing.

Second Suns
Copyright 2013
407 pages

Review by M. Reynard 2013

More of my reviews can be found at www.ifithaswords.blogspot.com
Profile Image for Amanda Kay.
368 reviews2 followers
January 27, 2014
I needed a day to process this book before I could even begin to review. As a side note, I received this book directly from Random House as an advance reader copy.

Where can you start with a book that is so monumental it could quite possibly bring change Western thoughts on third world blindness? While the end of his life was plagued with questions of his work, Relin has done so much to publicize America's neglect of third world countries that Second Suns reads as a fitting testament to his legacy.

Second Suns tells the story of Geoff Tabin and Sanduk Ruit, two opthamologists with a sense of the greater world. Ruit began the Tilganga Eye Care Facility, which began producing intraocular lenses at a fraction of the standard cost in the Western world. These lenses are used to treat patients with severe cataracts - a disability that has struck millions of the third world's subsistence farmers. Yet these cataracts can be treated so quickly, at such a low cost, that Ruit's work has developed surgeries that take 7 minutes. Seven minutes to remove such crippling cataracts - cataracts that had previously caused patients to simply sit in the dark and wait to die.

While the writing and the overall flow of this book are a bit lacking (I constantly found myself jumping back and forth in time/continent/story), the message is overpowering. The surgical supplies that are utilized for one American surgery are contained in a sealed package. That package is opened when you enter surgery, and when your surgery is finished, all the supplies are thrown out as medical waste. Even those that haven't even been opened. Yet those same supplies could be sterilized and reused in third world countries - aiding to provide medical care to millions. Only two American hospitals currently donate their excess to third world medical providers - two out of thousands. Getting doctors, specifically opthamologists, to third world countries is an uphill battle, with fellowships and positions slowly being created. It's hard to say what to do about this battle - but the goal of Second Suns is simply to open your eyes to the problem, not to solve it.

A solid 3 to 3.5 stars. The message is 5 stars, the content structure and overall readability bring this down a bit. I hope that the finished edition will spin the story a bit tighter.
154 reviews4 followers
November 2, 2013
Second Suns explores in depth the start of the Himalayan Cataract Project- how two highly talented ophthalmologists from different corners of the globe join forces to dedicate their skills and lives to restoring sight to some of the world’s most isolated, impoverished people through the Himalayan region.

Second Suns focuses on the perseverance and unconditional dedication of Sanduk Ruit and Geoff Tabin on helping those who suffer from preventable blindness. They operate on makeshift tables in remote villages without electricity and a new-found style of surgery for the mere price of $20 per operation. The Himalayas has a surprisingly high rate of cataracts and the author, Relin vividly describes the work of both doctors through heart-felt stories of patients helped by the surgery - blind patients who need constant aid in walking the tricky terrain of the Himalayas to clearly seeing the faces of loved ones after many years or the austere ability to sew, cook and enjoy the simple thrills of life with clear vision.

It was a challenge to plow through 600+ pages of the journey of curing preventable blindness and comprehending medical jargon in the world of opthamology, but the story is undoubtedly inspiring and moving.
3 reviews
March 12, 2015
Second Suns is a very personal book in two ways--the book intensely focuses on doctors Ruit and Tabin (as the title promises), and much of the book is an account of the author's experiences accompanying these doctors. The end product is idiosyncratic but compelling. The book is not a balanced view of the many organizations striving to end preventable blindness, but a deep look into the psyches and experiences of just a few. The book is full of rich, detailed descriptions of the places, people, and cultures where the doctors work, letting us see the interplay of culture and medicine, first and third worlds, doctors and patients.

Many have commented on the suicide of author David Oliver Relin just prior to publication. For me, thinking about this book and his death led to an extended meditation on the balance needed to take care of ourselves versus taking care of others. The book convincingly demonstrates how much can be done with fairly limited resources, yet also describes the incredible commitment and drive of the doctors leading the way. What would I do in their shoes? Certainly Ruit and Tabin have special personalities that make their work possible; what of the rest of us? What can we contribute within our means?
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
100 reviews
April 4, 2013
The story presented in Second Suns is extraordinary and inspiring. Doctors Ruit and Tabin, profiled in the book, have restored sight to thousands of cataract patients in Nepal and around the world. Relin's account of their work and how they developed and exported their cost-effective surgical technique is fascinating. But... not quite 400+ pages fascinating. At least not to me. I would have enjoyed this book more if a greater percentage of those pages had been used to profile the patients. What were their lives like before surgery? And after? How had their families managed? What is life like in their villages? These questions are addressed in a cursory way, but I wish the book had delved deeper. But, as the subtitle states, the story really focuses on the doctors themselves: their histories, their lives and relationships, their education, how they met and formed their partnership, their work in medicine and in funding their hospital, expanding their reach and disseminating their technique.

Profile Image for Monica Dimick.
11 reviews2 followers
August 6, 2013
Message gets 5 stars, delivery 2. What these physicians are doing is amazing, but the problem with the book is not with their mission and philanthropy but with the EXCESSIVE detail of the physicians' personal lives. It took over 100 pages to get to the actual gist of how these physicians came together and what they wanted to do, and even then it was only spattered within long passages and chapters more about Tabin's climbing stories and Nepal's civil and political issues. I am sad that many will not learn about these doctors ad what they're doing because of the poor writing. Could have been much shorter and concise.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Rasley.
Author 19 books35 followers
September 10, 2020
I love this book primarily because it tells the intertwining stories of Drs. Sanduk Ruit and Geoff Tabin, the two greatly talented, saintly, yet difficult men who created the Himalayan Cataract Project. Secondarily, I love it because Dr. Geoff is the brother of my college friend, Cliff Tabin, who makes several appearances in the book. And, because I am familiar with the Himalayan region which is the primary setting of the book. So, I was predisposed to like Second Suns for those personal reasons. But the stories of Dr. Ruit and Dr. Geoff, and the story of the HCP, is written by a master craftsman, David Relin. (His suicide in 2012 was a terrible loss to English literature.) Relin's masterful telling of the intertwining stories, and how he personally fit into the stories, elevates the book way beyond my own personal interest in the characters and setting.

Other reviews and blurbs well-describe the inspiring work of Drs. Ruit and Tabin in the Himalayan region and Africa to end the scourge of blindness. Their super-human efforts in that endeavor qualifies them as secular saints. For anyone interested in development of under-developed countries, the way Ruit and Tabin created the HCP offers a wonderful model. And that's a great story. But Relin also captures the distinct humanity of these two intriguing personalities. Ruit grew up a low-caste villager and became a world-renowned eye surgeon. Tabin grew up in a prominent Chicago-suburban family of intellectual geniuses to become a climber bum, then one of the most accomplished mountaineers in the world, and then a world-renowned eye surgeon. Great stories! But Relin humanizes these two men, so we learn about their foibles, how they can be maddening to work with - they drove each other nuts at times - and that's what makes Second Suns such a great book.

Dr. Ruit and Dr. Geoff are saints, but they are also very human. The fruits of their partnership has released tens of thousands of other humans from the bondage of blindness. It is a story to love.
Profile Image for Lisa Brown.
2,353 reviews10 followers
August 29, 2020
The story of Sanduk Ruit, a Nepalese, and Geoffrey Tabin, an American, two very different and amazing men who worked together to help cure the world of preventable blindness. Both are gifted ophthalmologists, and as Relin takes you through their back stories, you see how these two men were molded and perfect to do what they do, and the miracles that got them to this point. They have dedicated their lives to restoring sight to some of the world’s most isolated, destitute people through the Himalayan Cataract Project, and have done more to improve the lives of those they help than anything else could have done.

A fascinating story, and although it took a little bit to get into it in the beginning, soon I was caught up in the magnificence that is the HCP and the work they are doing. It truly puts things into perspective, and I feel incredibly blessed.
Profile Image for ReadingMama.
856 reviews
August 4, 2021
This was an incredible story of two doctors who founded the Himalaya Cataract Project to restore eyesight and save lives of the poorest regions of the world. Apparently, high pressure impacts cataract and there are more blinds in remote and high altitude areas. Two unlikely doctors joined by the same passion, walk together in a literal sense since there are no paved roads and hiking may be the only option to reach the forgotten people. Geoffrey Tabin is a Harvard educated, competitive athletic American risk taker who seems to have endless energy. Sanduk Ruit is a highly skillful Nepalian ophthalmologist who acquires and develops surgical skills that can be used in developing countries without expensive or state of art equipment. Their life journey itself is so unbelievable and dramatic, as David Olive Reilin, a author of Three Cups of Tea tags along to capture their saga and accomplishments.

This is the kind of story that inspires me and now, I contemplate my own life goal, not just living, but fulfilling life's mission.
Profile Image for Virginia.
1 review2 followers
July 5, 2017
I am awestruck by the incredible passion these two doctors - a world apart- have for treating the cataracts of the poor and less fortunate. It truly boggles my mind of all the good they have done and continue to do with their selfless service to mankind. I only wish I had a tenth of their passion, skill and energy.
May their efforts continue to bring sight back to as many people as possible.

I was saddened to hear the author, David Oliver Relin, gave up on life and put himself in front of a train. It's ironic that the doctors he wrote about were changing lives for the better yet he took his own life. It seems so senseless.
Profile Image for Joy.
1,124 reviews
March 25, 2018
I listened to this book and found that the work these two doctors performed to help the blind in so many countries, amazing and inspiring.
Profile Image for Nelly Heiman.
400 reviews1 follower
January 20, 2020
This is such an inspirational true story about selfless doctors curing blindness across Asia and Africa. Especially great if you love history too.
Profile Image for alisonwonderland (Alison).
1,312 reviews105 followers
March 8, 2022
This pick for my neighborhood book club was fascinating and inspiring. I will admit that at first I was put off by the arrogant, sexist, and vulgar behavior of one of the doctors profiled, but I’m glad I stuck with it. I listened to the audio version, which was excellent.

The book inspired a terrific discussion, touching on topics from how to make a difference in the world to the trade-offs between professional aspirations and familial concerns, from “white saviorism” to health care needs among those in poverty in our own communities. I thoroughly enjoyed our evening together.
Profile Image for Amber.
597 reviews5 followers
May 31, 2018
In a way, Second Suns can be a bit of a downer because it will leave you feeling pretty piss-poor about your own personal contribution to world betterment after you read about what its two heroes, Dr. Sanduk Ruit and Dr. Geoffrey Tabin, have been doing for the last 20 years. And I don't say heroes just in the sense that they are the protagonists of the book-- these guys are quite literal heroes in surgical scrubs who have restored vision and vitality to thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands by this time), and have packed the contents of an entire field surgical hospital through the Himalayas to bring desperately needed medical care to some of the most remote places on earth.

What was my good deed for the day? Well, I didn't kill anyone, I recycled my Coke can, and I bought some locally produced pimento cheese from Whole Foods... so where's my award? See what I mean? But don't worry, Second Suns will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy just to know that we have Ruits and Tabins in the world who are busily making up for sorry sad sacks like ourselves.

In the bitterly cold, windswept peaks of the Himalayas, blindness is a far heavier burden than it is in the civilized environs of first-world countries. It's also surprisingly common. When basic medical care requires a week-long trek on foot over steep mountain passes, conditions like cataracts and glaucoma, so simple to treat in wealthier, more industrialized places, are left untreated and their victims left to languish, imprisoned in their homes, unable to work, isolated from village life by trails too steep and treacherous to negotiate. Is it any wonder many of them commit suicide, hoping if nothing else to relieve their families of the burden they have become?

Sanduk Ruit, born in one of those poor, remote Himalayan villages, and obviously too intelligent for ordinary village life, made it his lifelong goal to bring the best modern eye care to his people, who suffered from blindness at shockingly disproportionate rates. He was joined in his quest by American doctor Geoffrey Tabin, who came to Nepal for the mountains as a passionate rock climber and mountaineer, but stayed for its people. They pioneered fast, low-cost, effective surgical techniques and organizational models that allowed them to bring sight-restoring care to patients who can't pay, can't afford to spend a week recovering from surgery, and badly need to see not just a little better, but perfectly. And not just mediocre, cobbled-together field medicine, but world-class care with results as good as those achieved in gleaming operating theaters in expensive western hospitals. The non-profit organization they founded, the Himalayan Cataract Project, now provides that care well beyond just the Himalayas, and is bringing light into people's lives around the world. Here's a blurb from their website, www.cureblindness.org:

Today HCP reaches the most unreachable patients wherever its services are needed through a combination of:
-teaching ophthalmic care at all levels,
-furthering specialized care through training and skills transfer, country by country,
-establishing self sustaining eye care centers, and
-performing sutureless cataract operations in 6 to 7 minutes, at a low cost, with excellent outcomes.

Second Suns is these two docors' incredible story – a story of compassion, amazing dedication, sheer hard-headedness, and not a little luck. I'm finding myself using a lot of superlatives to describe it, like “literal heroes,” “incredible,” “amazing,” and so forth. I really don't think I'm overdoing it.

And it's quite enjoyable to read, often downright riveting, from Tabin's awe-inspiring first ascents as an enthusiastic young climber, to their marathon surgery sessions in which the team performs upward of 100 eye surgeries in a day, to that most glorious moment when the bandages are removed and the patients react as they see for the first time in years. Relin's prose is workmanlike, which is a good thing, because when you've got material this dramatic, the best thing you can do as a writer is just get out of the way and let the story tell itself.
Profile Image for Louise.
1,548 reviews80 followers
July 22, 2013
Story Description:

Random House|June 18, 2013|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-1-4000-6925-5

From the co-author of ‘Three Cups of Tea’ comes the inspiring story of two very different doctors – one from the United States, the other from Nepal – united in a common mission: to rid the world of preventable blindness.

In this transporting book, David Oliver Relin shines a light on the work of Geoffrey Tabin and Sanduk Ruit gifted ophthalmologists who have dedicated their lives to restoring sight to some of the world’s most isolated, impoverished people through the Himalayan Cataract Project, an organization they founded in 1995. Tabin was the high-achieving bad boy of Harvard Medical School, an unaccomplished mountain climber and adrenaline junkie as brilliant as he was unconventional. Ruit grew up in a remote Nepalese village, where he became intimately acquainted with the human costs of inadequate access to health care. Together they found their life’s calling: tending to the afflicted people of the Himalayas, a vast mountainous region with an alarmingly high incidence of cataract blindness.

Second Suns takes us from improvised plywood operating tables in villages without electricity or plumbing to state-of-the-art surgical centers at major American universities where these two driven men are restoring sight and hope to patients from around the world. With their revolutionary, inexpensive style of surgery, Tabin and Ruit have been able to cure tens of thousands – all for about twenty dollars per operation. David Oliver Relin brings the doctor’s work to vivid life through poignant portraits of patients helped by the surgery, from old men who cannot walk treacherous mountain trails unaided to cataract-stricken children who have not seen their mother’s faces for years. With the dexterity of a master storyteller, Relin shows the profound emotional and practical impact that these operations have had on patient’s lives.

Second Suns is the moving, unforgettable story of how two men with a shared dream are changing the world, one pair of eyes at a time.

My Review:

I really don’t have anything to add to the story description above other than this was one well-written, fantastic read! What these two doctors’ have managed to accomplish is truly remarkable and to think of the hundreds of thousands of people they have helped is truly staggering. I couldn’t imagine being a child and never having seen my mother’s face.

Don’t miss this one, it is truly one phenomenal story.

33 reviews
June 24, 2013
From the co-author of the Inspiring book Three Cups of Tea, David Relin shows us in his new book Second Suns that blindness can be prevented cheaply and easily.

This story is one begging to be told and should open up the eyes of the world about what the poorest of this world go through every day.
These two doctors one a Nepalese doctor named Sanduk Ruit who grew up in the midst of what he is now working to prevent, and Geoff Tabin a mountain climber in his spare time,.
These doctors take us into the worst possible conditions in improvised operating rooms with out water or electricity to show the “normal” world this can be done at around twenty dollars a surgery and should be done all over the world. They not only show us it can be done cheaply but quicker than the time-consuming surgeries that are done in the modern world.

Second Suns is a moving emotional story about how blindness can be prevented, I enjoyed this story so much and makes my heart bleed for those Nepalese people.
I received this book for free from Random House for an honest review. As David stated in his author's note: "Some books you want to write. Others you have to write." The world will definitely miss this author as this was his last book, as he died in November of 2012.
Profile Image for Linda.
49 reviews
May 14, 2013
I read this as part of my libraries pre-published review program. I would have given this book five stars but at times I thought the book was a little drawn out and repetitive. With that said, this is a well written book and so inspirational. Drs. Tabin and Ruit come from two totally different backgrounds, US and Nepal, yet connect and are driven to rid the world of preventible blindness. They work under extreme conditions, in the poorest countries high in the Himalayan Mountains. Dr. Ruit has develop a surgical method that cost $20 per person and takes less that 10 mins to perform to cure cataract blindness. To be blind in the villages of the Himalayas means to sit and wait for death.

I also enjoyed the histories of countries that were in included. I did find the foreign names difficult and confusing.

Profile Image for Graham Mcmillan.
65 reviews
July 4, 2013
I started this book expecting it to be a touching and inspiring story of two men's struggle towards a monumental goal - eradicating preventable blindness in the third world. And it was. The story itself is awesome - evidence that sincere and talented people can make an enormous difference to the world - in this case saving thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of third world people from a miserable life of blindness due to untreated cataracts. And I would encourage readers to learn about and possibly donate to, the Himalayan Cataract Project which has alleviated so much misery.

So much for the book's content. Unfortunately the book itself was, IMO, about 50% longer than it needed to be, in order to tell the story. So it rambled and I found myself pushing to get through it before I lost interest as it dragged.
Profile Image for Katrinadohn Dohn.
181 reviews2 followers
July 5, 2013
The story told in this book is extraordinary and highly inspiring. What these two doctors have done to change the lives of people in the Himalayas, and other parts of the world, is truly awe-inspring. Their work is a powerful model of how, not only having a dream and a skill can change lives, but how the exponential power of training others multiplies the impact of one's work. What kept the book from getting a higher rating was certainly not the story it told. It was the writing itself, as the story became redundant at times, and focused on details of the doctor's lives that were less gripping than the stories of those whose lives were changed through the amazing eye care brought to remote regions. I wish it had delved into the culture and individual stories more than it did. That being said, however, this is truly a perspective-changing story that I am glad I read!
1,428 reviews51 followers
April 21, 2013

Second Suns by David Relin is an exceptionally inspirational book and one I would not hesitate to all readers and discussion groups, especially to those who do not typically read memoirs, it truly is that good of a book. Relin not only takes the reader deep into Nepal and the traditions and peoples of Nepal, but also introduces the reader to two exceptional Opthalmogists, Dr. Geoffrey Tabin and Dr. Sanduk Ruit, whose works on the Himalayan Cataract Project is nothing short of inspirational. I am thankful I had an opportunity to read Second Suns and as I mentioned at the start, I highly recommend Relin’s expertly written book, Second Suns.
Profile Image for Theresa.
154 reviews
July 18, 2013
this book was so inspiring the sacrifices made by these two incredible doctors to restore sight of poor people , simply wonderful. Well written, sadly author is deceased., such a tragedy.

it is a special tale for me as my mom was blind as a young girl, and went on to have us 6 kids doing everything for us, cooking, cleaning, gardening large gardens on the farm, she never complained in her 93 years, singing take me out to the ball game the day she passed. so blindness is something I
know, and. Helping my mom all those years, I understand how these doctors got such great rewards helping so many!,,, thanks...
Profile Image for Dave Hoff.
712 reviews25 followers
October 15, 2013
Recommended by another avid reader, my first glance said, not for me. I would skim it. Cataract operations & climbing Mts. A few pages in & I was hooked. A Nepalese and a Mountaineer Ophthalmologists performing 1,000s of cataract removals under the most primitive conditions, both men gifted in using advanced instruments and in teaching others how. The author, living and working with the eye Drs. did a great job of writing an outstanding book.
Profile Image for Lisa.
686 reviews122 followers
Want to read
March 15, 2013
I am thrilled to be offered an ARC of Second Suns, especially since I worked in the field of ophthalmology for 18 years. Thanks, Random House!
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