India: Vaishnavi can smile again now that she can see

January 2020

When Vaishnavi started to lose her sight to a cataract, her father feared she would struggle in school. But, all thanks to a new pediatric eye care project set up at our partner hospital in India's poorest state, our Volunteer Faculty were able to remove her cataract while giving local doctors the opportunity to learn new skills.

It was Vaishnavi’s father, San, who first noticed something was wrong with his five-year-old daughter’s right eye. She wasn’t playing as much as she used to and would often fall over when she was walking. Sometimes she would tell him that she couldn’t see.

After noticing that something had developed in her eye, San took Vaishnavi to the doctor in their village in the state of Bihar. The doctor explained that Vaishnavi had a cataract and that with time it would only get worse. Most commonly, cataracts occur in older people, but the eye condition can appear at any age - even in childhood.

Vaishnavi struggled with her vision due to a cataract in her right eye

Unfortunately, the village doctor didn’t have the eye care skills to treat Vaishnavi’s condition and told San they needed to go to a bigger hospital. The pair traveled 150 kilometers by bus to an Orbis partner hospital - Akhand Jyoti Eye Institute - where our Volunteer Faculty were training local eye doctors at our recently established Children’s Eye Center.

A fan of pretty dresses, Vaishnavi wore her favorite dress on the day she was screened by our dedicated Volunteer Faculty member, Dr. Donny Suh, and Dr. Faiz Ashraf Faizy from Akhand Jyoti.

Following the screening, the doctors told San that the cause of Vaishnavi's cataract was either due to an injury or an infection, and that they would remove it during surgery the following day.

Screening time at Akhand Jyoti's Children's Eye Center

When surgery day came around, Vaishnavi wore her other favorite dress and smiled at everyone around her. When asked if she was always this happy, her father explained she was even happier with her mother who had to stay at home with her baby sibling.

At home, the pre-schooler likes to dig in the ground and help with the gardening. Her carpenter father wants Vaishnavi to get a good education.

He said: “I wanted to get her treatment as soon as possible because she’s so young and I know that when she grows older it might get difficult. I want her to have the cataract removed as soon as possible, which is why I brought her here. I want her to grow up and study. I don’t know where destiny will take her, but I definitely want to make sure that she studies.

Local doctors learn new skills under the expert guidance of Volunteer Faculty member Dr. Donny Suh

I want her to grow up and study. I don’t know where destiny will take her but I definitely want to make sure that she studies.

San

Vaishnavi's father

With the guidance of Dr. Suh, Dr. Faizy successfully removed Vaishnavi’s cataract. Beforehand, San had been so worried about his young daughter having the surgery because he wasn’t sure what would happen next.

However, when the patch was removed, San put his hand over Vaishnavi's good eye and asked if she could see through the one that had just been operated on – and she could!

So happy: Vaishnavi has a reason to smile again now that she can see the world again

While Vaishnavi is so fortunate to have her sight back, there are more children just like her struggling with their vision. In Bihar, India, over 700,000 people are blind, with over half of these people unable to access sight-saving surgery. Girls in the region also have the lowest literacy rates in all of India.

Thanks to your incredible support, the first ever pediatric eye care project in Bihar - unveiled last year - is dedicated to eradicating an epidemic of avoidable blindness among rural children in the Eastern India state.

A huge thank you for helping us get this project off the ground so young girls and boys facing blindness won't be held back from realizing their potential.

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