TILL JUST the other day Firdous drove an auto-rickshaw in Sopore town in Kashmir Valley to earn his living. He was the sole earner in his family. The 25-year-old was injured during a protest at Mazbugh, Sopore, on July 15, and is now one of the five patients from the Valley undergoing treatment at AIIMS with severe eye injuries.
“He is still a little restless; he wants to talk,” says Firdous’s cousin, who has accompanied him to Delhi. He adds that Firdous understands this may be his last chance — “if he does not recover his sight here (at AIIMS), he will never get it back”. Firdous interrupts: “I have been driving an auto for five years. I can’t do that when I can’t see.”
His medical report says he has severe injuries from metallic pellets in both eyes.
A few paces down, in another room of Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences at AIIMS, school students Junaid, from Qazigund in south Kashmir, and Zahid, from Sopore in north Kashmir, lie opposite each other in a darkened room. Zahid was injured by pellets fired at protesters in Sopore town on July 19.
Junaid was brought by his family to AIIMS since there was no way of taking him to Srinagar for treatment amid the protests.
His attendants, who refuse to be identified, say that after spending some time at Srinagar’s SMHS Hospital, they were referred to Delhi on priority. Junaid sits up in his bed, attentive, but does not join the conversation.
“The (Srinagar hospital) HoD told us that we were being referred to Delhi, and they arranged the flight. We came here on July 23 and, since then, they have been under observation and treatment,” one attendant says.
At the AIIMS Trauma Centre, Insha, 15, is scheduled to undergo a surgery in the next two days. “She is doing well. We plan to conduct the surgery either tomorrow or the day after. We need to repair the wound and it will be reconstructive surgery. Otherwise she is stable,” Dr Deepak Aggarwal, Professor, Neurosurgery, AIIMS, says.
Insha has a pellet injury on her forehead and has developed an infection after her family reportedly tried to remove the pellet by hand before she was taken to a hospital.
AIIMS spokesperson Dr Amit Gupta says the others have been under investigation and undergone minor procedures. “They will be admitted for a week more to study their progress. They are doing well,” he says.
The youngest, Asif, 14, from Khanabal, Anantnag, underwent surgery on Tuesday. His father comes to check up on the other patients from the Valley as doctors removed pellets from his son’s body. “Asif has several pellets in his upper body and one eye. Please pray for him,” the father says.