Well, in the months that followed, I called every airline and every manufacturer I knew. The most receptive person I encountered was Eddie Carlson, who was then the chairman at United Air Lines. Betsy, Dr. Francis L'Esperance, a New York City ophthalmologist and early supporter of the idea, and I went to see Mr. Carlson. We managed to inspire him to give. What we got was an out-of-service short-body DC-8 United had parked on a deserted ramp in Las Vegas. The thing was a mess, dripping hydraulic fluid and leaking fuel. It was the oldest DC-8 still around - number three off the production line. But Mr. Carlson said we could have it for free - the magic word - if we had the money to fix the thing up and put it into service. I said we had the money and took the airplane. Of course we didn't have the money, but eventually we got it. We went everywhere with our hats in hand, begging for everything - microscopes, fuel, operating-room equipment and money. Always money. Our need for donated equipment, supplies, maintenance, rooms, tickets and fuel is never ending.

We called the operation Orbis and flew that DC-8 for ten years - to Russia and China, to Central America and to some of the most impoverished out-of-the-way places on Earth. And you know what? It worked. The visiting volunteer doctors and the onboard medical staff did exactly what Dr. Paton had envisioned all those years before. They restored the eyesight of countless kids and adults. More importantly, they helped local medical professionals learn new sight-saving skills, and in every country they visited they helped raise awareness of eye care.

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