Those We Help


Project Visits of James Killam - February 2002

During my project visits in February 2002, I was able to interview, through translaters, a number of patients and in some cases, their families. They were all extremely grateful. It is obvious that the restoration of vision turns lives around. Three of their stories follow.

Mrs. Venkatarama, whom I met at Suryapet, was blind due to cataract. I talked with her the day after her surgery. She has four children and a husband who has been paralyzed for about 10 years. For the last year the family has been supported by her 20 year old son who works as an agricultural laborer in the rice fields. He receives two 100kg bags of rice for pay which the family sells in the market for 600 to 700rs per month (about $20 Canadian). She used to do the same work but because of her cataracts, has not been able to work. After her surgery she wants to work again to support her family and her husband. She said that as she has two female children, she needs money for their marriages. She was worried that she would not have enough money and they would therefore not be able to marry.
Mrs. Venkatarama
Mrs. Kantamma, whom I met in a small village near Nidadavole, had cataract operations in both eyes, with IOL implants, through the Village Financed Eyecare Project. She is a 65 year old woman who lives by herself in one room of a two room hut, which she owns. She does not have electricity, a toilet or running water. She proudly showed me one of the laces she had made, explaining that the cataract operations enabled her to do needlepoint and earn enough money to get by. She is able to make about 10 laces each month which she sells for 40 rupees each, making a profit of 10 rupees per lace. She also rents out the other room in her hut for 60 rupees per month, which together with the laces, results in a total monthly income of 160 rupees or $5.00 Canadian.
Mrs. Kantamma
Kona Subba Rao, age 45 and his wife Annapurna, age 35 live in Singavaram, a small village about 3 km from the hospital in Nidadavole. Kona is an agricultural labourer who used to work in the rice paddies. He completed 5th grade and can read and write. They have 2 sons, age 16 and 18. Both live in the family's small grass shack.
Kona and Annapurna Rao
Five years ago, Kona was injured when a piece of husk cut his left eye. He developed swelling in his eye and then a cataract. Some time later, he had an intra-capsular cataract extraction in Anaparthi which cost 1000 rupees. At that time he was told that he also had a cataract in his right eye and that he should have it removed and replaced with an intra-ocular lens at a cost of 5000 rupees. This was far more than the family could afford. Within a short time his condition worsened and he became functionally blind and unable to go out of the house.

As a result of the loss of Kona's income, his oldest son left school and began work as a gardener to support the family. Annapurna also worked part time doing stitching for tailors. Together they earned about 1000 rupees per month or about $36.00 Canadian.
Recently, Kona developed an infection in his eye which worsened after he used an inappropriate ointment in it. Around the same time, two field workers from our project visited the village and told Kona and his wife about it. They enrolled, paying 48 rupees for the family for one year.

Kona then went to the hospital for treatment where he was found to have a late stage infection. He was told that he might not be able to regain his vision. His infection was, however, successfully treated and cataract surgery was then performed. He said that the third day after surgery he was elated as he could see with his left eye. At first his vision was dim but it gradually improved. Because his first operation was performed without an intra-ocular lens, and because of his risk of infection, it was not possible to insert a lens in this operation. Nevertheless, with strong glasses, he is able to see again.

This treatment has had a huge impact on Kona and his family. He says that God has given him back his sight. He says his life would have been pathetic without this operation.

His wife is even more enthusiastic. She has gone from house to house in her village, describing what has happened to her husband and encouraging others to participate in the project.

Within about 100 metres of the family's home, I met 6 or 7 other residents who had joined the project (at the urging of Kona's wife) and had had their sight restored. It is almost unbelievable that there could be so many blind people in such a small area and in such close proximity to an eye hospital.