Rambo's Elephant-size Problem

Rambo's Elephant-size Problem

An elephant bell clanged. Through the gate the big beast lumbered, thud, thud, right up to Dr. Rambo's work table. Its mahout (driver) climbed down. Rambo greeted him. "Give us your name and tell us what is your trouble."

"Nahin, no, Doctor Sahib. Not I. Look at my elephant. She is sick. Ai-oh, see her eye!" Sure enough, pus dripped from under the half-shut eyelid. Potassium permanganate would rinse the lens, but Victor was not keen on swabbing out an elephant's tender eye. "I'll do it," said the mahout. Up her trunk he climbed, and squirted solution into the eye. The elephants trunk thrashed wildly. The mahout could barely hang on to wipe the eye out with a wad of clean cotton. "Bring her back this afternoon," said Victor Rambo.

Dr. Rambo wrote down the elephant's name and the treatment he had given her--just as he would a human patient. "Sundari." Beautiful. To the delight of Rambo and his children, Sundari was soon well again.

It was not often that Dr. Rambo treated animals. Too many people needed his help. He was a bold, happy man, but if one thing made him sad it was this: in India there were five million blind people. Half of them would be able to see again, if only enough doctors and equipment could be found. It was an elephant-size problem. With prayer and hard work, he was doing his best to solve it, because blindness caused so much misery.

Before one woman lost her sight, she was hardworking and useful. When she became blind, she could not eat unless food was put in her mouth and did not remember her own name, her family, or the time of day. Rambo operated on one of her eyes. A week later, he took off the bandage. By the end of the day, the woman had her mind back, and wept with joy. Victor operated on her other eye, too, and sent the family home in a few days. As always, he told them about Jesus who had healed the blind. In one town, forty families became Christian after God used Dr. Rambo to restore one man's sight!

Dr. Victor Rambo could have made much money in the United States. Instead, he sailed for India on this day, January 12, 1924. Even though he was a surgeon, the man who would become one of the most famous eye doctors in the world because of his treatment of India's eye diseases, had never removed a cataract. It was not part of the medical course. But in India, where so many eyes needed care, Dr. Rambo soon learned.

One way to fix more eyes was to find more doctors. There weren't many available. Another was to train students. Rambo did both. Sometimes he even held his students' hands in his own to teach them the procedure.

One day an idea came to him. Why not hold eye camps in the villages? Rambo's team worked out a system. An advance man came to a village to advertise the camp. On the set day, the eye team arrived and cleaned out the school or church or factory where the surgery would take place. Others examined the patients to see who had cataracts and glaucoma and tagged them to show what should be done. Before treatment began, they explained to the villagers that they cured eyes for the sake of Jesus. Sometimes Rambo tap-danced on a table to make people laugh and ease their fear of the knife. Then surgery began. Often it would last until late at night. After the last eye was fixed, they were done. Then a nurse watched the patients for several days to be sure none of them took off their bandages early.

The camps were successful; thousands of Indians recovered their sight. Rambo formed more eye teams and imitators opened eye camps in other nations. Many blind people have been blessed because Dr. Rambo sailed to India. His is one of a multitude of examples of the gospel bringing health for the body as well as hope for the soul.


  1. Hostetter, Richard "Victor Rambo: slave for the sightless" Christian Standard. 130:646 - 7 (Aug 6 1995).
  2. Wilson, Dorothy Clarke. Apostle of Sight; the story of Victor Rambo, surgeon to India's blind. Christian Herald, 1980.

Last updated May, 2007.

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