Oct. 3, 2013 — -- An American doctor has been overwhelmed with donations from viewers who want to give the gift of sight to the millions in the developing world who live in darkness, after ABC's "World News" reported Wednesday on the doctor's efforts in Africa.
In fact, $139,186 was donated in the first 24 hours after ABC News' report, according to the Himalayan Cataract Project, enough to buy 12,653 lenses for patients with cataract blindness.
"Thank you so much to all the viewers. Your donations mean thousands more surgeries will now be possible," said Job Heintz, of the Himalayan Cataract Project. "Patients will receive sight restoring surgery thanks to your story."
ABC News' David Muir was in an operating room in Mekelle, Ethiopia, for three days as Dr. Geoffrey Tabin, director of the division of international ophthalmology at the John A. Moran Eye Center, helped cure patients there of cataract blindness.
The simple surgery takes just seven minutes and costs only $11.
The doctor makes a quick incision, removes the cataract in one piece and puts a new lens in its place.
Hundreds of patients came through the clinic's doors. The next day, ABC News cameras captured patients shedding tears of joy as Tabin removed the eye patches and they realized they could see.
Parents who had not seen their children in more than decade were suddenly able to see again. Children who'd been unable to go to school, unable to see the chalkboard, were given their sight back.
ABC News joined Tabin on the recent trip 8,000 miles from Tabin's home in Park City, Utah, to Ethiopia, which has one of the highest rates of blindness in the world.
When the ABC News team arrived at the Quiha Zonal Hospital in the remote city of Mekelle, Ethiopia, there were already hundreds of patients waiting for Tabin.
For the patients, the journey to Mekelle was a pilgrimage, of sorts. They came from cities, villages and small farming communities throughout Ethiopia after hearing the American doctor was coming.
Getting to the clinic was no small feat considering their condition. Many had traveled for days in search of a medical miracle.
Cataract blindness is an epidemic in Ethiopia, and doctors point to poverty, poor nutrition, genetics and the scorching sun as reasons for the devastating numbers.
Tabin told Muir seeing the line of patients waiting for his help was powerful.
"It's daunting, but also exciting. You know, when I'm operating, every single eye is a life," Tabin said.