Ashidul from the Dhubri District in India with his mother Ayatun Bibi.
Becoming a medical practitioner is ambitious. Adding a specialty to that such as eye surgery is a challenging goal. Restoring sight to the 20 million people across the world … daunting. For one night in your life you have the opportunity to experience all three.
According to the National Eye Institute more than half of all Americans will develop cataracts by age 80. For most of us this is a minor issue fixed by an outpatient procedure. There may be some discomfort but within eight weeks, everything is back to normal. Often vision is much better after the surgery that it was before.
But what if this wasn’t the case? What if you had to make a decision between buying food and saving the sight of your 4 year old child?
Ashidul after cataract surgery.
After a typical pregnancy Ashidul was born a healthy baby in the in the Dhubri district of Northeast India. Ashidul’s parents suspected something was wrong when his eyes began to water constantly. He also developed a habit of squeezing his eyes shut and he wouldn’t track the movement of objects place in front of him.
At four years old Ashidul was taken to a pediatrician who diagnosed bilateral blindness (blindness in both eyes) due to cataracts.
This was good news. There was reason for hope.
Ashidul could go to the city for surgery but the cost of this procedure would be more than 15,000 rupees ($225). This seems affordable to us but the average monthly salary in India is around $130. Ashidul’s father probably made less than this.
Scenes from the Dhubri, one of the many rural areas outside of Guwahati, India.
The situation was difficult. Saving the money to pay for the surgery meant going without food.
Thankfully, Ashidul’s parents learned about an outreach camp with Sri Sankardeva Nethralaya in Guwahati, India. Last September Ashidul received cataract surgery at no cost. He is now attending school and learning to read.
Tayab Ali accompanies his son Ashidul to the hospital in Guwahati for a 2-week post-op appointment.
Children shouldn’t be blinded for life by a condition that is treatable. We are on a mission to change that.
HelpMeSee has a three-part approach to end the pandemic of avoidable cataract blindness like Ashidul’s:
- Community Mobilization-With the HelpMeSee Reach app we can locate patients in remote areas who need treatment.
- Simulator Based Training-is used to teach Manual Small incision Cataract Surgery to cataract surgical specialists
- Quality Assurance-is monitored through a cloud-based database system used for reporting surgical outcomes. We’ve also developed a one-time use surgical kit with a complete set of sterile tools required to perform an MSICS procedure.
It won’t be easy. It’s a daunting goal, but we will make cataract blindness history.
Ashidul having his eyes examined after surgery.