By: Alifya Khan
EVEN as his mother wept for her husband whom she lost on Laxmi Puja, Santosh Walhekar didn’t bat an eyelid when his uncle Datta Walhekar suggested they donate his deceased father’s cornea.
Nasrapur resident Santosh, a clerk with Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC), called H V Desai Eye Hospital at Mohammedwadi. “This year, we had 20 cornea donations in this village and fortunately people are now quite open-minded about it. Even as we were preparing for the last rites, the priest and others waited for the ambulance. We firmly believe that in death, if one can give life to another, there can be no greater thing. While our festivities turned into mourning, we hope another family will smile because of this family’s gesture,” said Walhekar, a member of the village gram sabha.
There were other calls, too. One was from Poona Hospital, which had been contacted by a family for eye donation, said HV Desai and eyebank technician Satish Kurpad. “In the first four days, we received six calls. And we had an equal number of cornea transplants a few days ago. The best part is joy the recipients and their families express when some are able to see the festival of lights for the first time,” he said.
For some like 65-year-old Rafique Shaikh (name changed), even though the operation may not have meant getting eyesight back, it meant a chance to look ‘normal’. “My father had an injury because of which a small hole developed in his cornea and we were told it would gradually increase. The thought of surgery was scaring him and his health was failing. The surgeons told us it might not give him sight but he would at least look fine. Thankfully, he has some sight and later we conducted a cataract operation,” said his son Ameen, a carpenter.
At the National Institute of Ophthalmology, there were two calls in four days of the festival season. “Unfortunately, the corneas couldn’t be harvested since the patients had a history of infection. But we asked their relatives if we could take it for medical research and they agreed. In these two cases, we didn’t get the corneas but last week we had a few cases and successful transplants took place. It is heartening to see that despite their loss, many families take this brave step. Even though law doesn’t allow us to introduce donor and recipients families, donor families know they someone would get their sight back,” said senior resident doctor Alok Borkar.