“Our son Atharva now recognises his toys. He constantly tries to see with his right eye which was operated for corneal transplant this February,” says Ganesh Deshpande , (30) his father.
Atharva is a year and eight months old. His parents got to know about his poor eyesight when he was three months old. He could not see much beyond five feet. They registered him as a recipient for an eye donation at Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune, soon after.
Dr. Sangeeta Wagh, opthalmologist and medical director of International Eye Bank of India, Ruby Hall Clinic cooperated to inform about more eye donation cases. Each patient is operated on one eye. Thus, two persons benefit from a single donation.
Priyanka Phalke (9) can now see without difficulty. “Her eyes did not look abnormal. But she could hardly see distant things. We felt more difficulties when she started going to school. After the transplant in May 2003, things are much better,” says her father Dilip Phalke, (40). After being treated on the right eye in August 2003 in Paranjpe Netra Pedhi, Mukund Kulkarni (72), now spreads the word about eye donation himself.
Jagdish Taksale, (41) a clerk in a cooperative bank recalls: “Earlier, everything appeared foggy. My eyes strained in sunlight and it was impossible to work. Being the only earning member, it was very hard”. His left eye was operated in February 2001 and the right eye in May 2005 in Ruby Hall. “I work now and there is almost 80% improvement in my vision”, he says.
Some people who take decision amidst immense grief, enable many such patients to be treated. Like Umakant Phulzele, (29) who consented to donate his elder brother’s eyes in December 2005. Ravikant Pulzele was thirty-two when he died of a severe heart attack, leaving behind a young wife and three-year-old daughter. Umakant says, “I felt when his body was going to meet the soil anyway, atleast one part of him would stay alive and benefit someone,”
Shivroopraje Nimbalkar (38) lost his mother Sudeshnaraje (62), in January 2006. He consented for eye donation after a counsellor in Ruby Hall approached the family barely few minutes after her death. “I heard some children required a corneal transplant. Thinking of the noble cause, it hardly took us five minutes to decide”, he says.
Initially some relatives expressed discomfort but Nimbalkar says: “For the first time eye donation was done in our family and we are certain it was a right decision. Many appreciate the act now. In spite of personal grief, eye donation should be implemented”.
Trained counsellors motivate relatives to allow eye donation under the Hospital Cornea Retrieval Programme in Ruby Hall. “This has increased donations. We also get corneal tissue in good state which can increase the success rate of transplants,” informs Chaitrali Inamdar, coordinator of the eye bank.
Dr. Medha Paranjpe of Paranjpe Netra Pedhi, says friends and relatives should gently suggest eye donation as it may not occur to the immediate family due to grief. They should not feel awkward about suggesting it. “It’s unfortunate that sometimes, even well educated individuals downright reject the idea. The final decision lies with family members, who often fail to act swiftly,” she says. If such incidences are avoided, many more can benefit.
Some important things to remember:
1) Gently suggest the possibility of eye donation to a relative who is calm and poised
2) Inform your family doctor or contact Red Cross, any reputable eye donation centre
3) Switch off the fan in the room or, if advised by healthcare professionals, cover the closed eyes with a clean cloth soaked in water
4) The entire procedure takes less than half an hour once the team of doctors arrive
5) The identity of recipients or the donors is not revealed.
6) Age is immaterial, eyes of infants as well as the aged can be donated