Elderly celebrate the conclusion of a three-day eye surgery camp at the Hetauda Eye Hospital on Tuesday. Ashok Sujan Shrestha/Republica
HETAUDA, Dec 20: Mangari Majhi, 75, lost her eyesight two years ago to cataract. That added a lot of trouble to her life. She was forced to depend on others for even small things and this had stolen her dignity and peace of mind. “I would feel so bad about myself. I had to trouble my family members every now and then and that would make me feel much more troubled. Life had become a burden during the twilight years,” she said. But on Tuesday, a famous doctor perform surgery in her eyes. Majhi, a resident of Motipur village got her eyesight back. “I got something back which I had never imagined even in my dream. God bless the doctor who gave me my eyesight back,” she said.
Dr Sanduk Ruit, an internationally renowned ophthalmologist, and his team gave such wonderful gift to 1027 elderly people who had lost their vision to cataract. All free of cost. The eye operations started on Saturday at the Hetauda Eye Hospital and continued until late afternoon on Tuesday.
Spectacular celebration followed the successful eye surgery of those many people. Right after the camp was over, the elderly people had begun to sing and dance. Getting to see the world once again had put them on cloud nine.
“We did not care even about the cold, it was such a joyful moment,” said Majhi. “The only thing that has captivated us is our new found eyesight and the doctor who came as a boon to us,” she added.
While women were seen bit shy to dance, some volunteers and foreigners who had come here as part of the team, joined the celebration by hitting the floor. Locals said that though free eye camps were organized at the hospital in the past, such a success was never seen.
Eye patients from five districts Makwanpur, Bara, Parsa, Rautahat and Sarlahi, among others attended the eye camp. The eye camp was initiated by Tilganga Eye Hospital and supported by several organizations. Siddhilal Shrestha, a patron of Hetauda Eye Hospital, informed to Republica that the patients were provided with free medicine and eyeglasses. In addition to that, the camp also provided free accommodation and transportation service for elderly and for those who were accompanying them.
Most of the elderly people said that they were never aware that they could get their eyesight back. They considered it quite natural to lose eyesight at their age. Moreover, getting to know that such treatment are being offered for free was something unbelievable for them. According to Paltaniya Devi of Motipur, she had nearly given up the idea of participating in the camp. She had little hope that doctor can restore her eyesight and that too free.
“I am able to see this once again. I lost my eyesight two years ago. When I came to know that this hospital is hosting a free eye camp that would operate people like me and restore eyesight, I doubted it,” Paltaniya Devi narrated. “There were many others like me in my village. Along with them, I also came here with the group and got a new life,” she added.
Most of the elderly people reminisced their horrible days at home after they turned blind. In some cases, their own sons and daughters seemed to have treated them lowly. Most of them were in a mood to go back home and reclaim their lost dignity.
Parishan Chaudhari, 66 and his wife Patsiya Devi were among the happiest couples. Chaudhari had lost vision of his both eyes while Patsia was having problem with one of her eyes. After the treatment at the camp, both of their eyesight is completely restored.
“I couldn't see at all while my wife had problem with one of her eyes. I was fully dependent on her for even small things. She had to do everything for me,” said Chaudhari. “Now, I am feeling very good as I don't have to depend on her or anyone. She is very happy, too,” he added.
Sudhir Bhadra Shrestha, senior doctor at the Hetauda Eye Hospital, shared that their team had reached out to several villages for identifying people whose eyesight can be restored but were unable to pay for it. Following the identification, these patients were brought to the hospital where they were operated over a three-day period. If they had to pay for it, operation of single eye would have cost them around Rs 3000, Shrestha said.
Dr Ruit is the founder and executive director of Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology and was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2006.