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
|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. 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.
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.
||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
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.