Schoolgoer Shivani Batra, who is 12 years old now, would often ask
what the colour pink looked like, making her mother's eyes well
up. The Delhi girl suffered from corneal blindness - a problem
that affects two million people in India.
But all this changed, when in 2006, Shivani's family came to know
of corneal transplants through an eye bank. An eye donor was found
for Shivani - who had the problem from birth - and after a
successful operation, a whole new world revealed itself to her.
"We were worried about her future. She had whole life in front of
her," Shivani's mother Rajni Batra told IANS. "We can't explain
our gratitude to the person who donated his eyes. Giving light to
someone requires courage."
The advent of the private sector and voluntary organisations,
including NGOs, has seen a remarkable rise in eye donations in
India. Corneal transplants are emerging as a ray of hope for those
waiting for sight.
Corneal transplant operation requires replacing the opaque cornea
with a clear cornea. A clear cornea is obtained from a donor's
"Earlier there was no means of storing eyes after one died. But
now, with sufficient storage methods and more willing donors, eye
donation is picking pace in India," said Jayeeta Bose, eye bank
in-charge of the Venu Eye Institute.
The institute conducts 15-20 corneal transplants in a month, with
a 70 percent success rate.
The Eye Bank Association of India currently has over 400 eye banks
registered with it. Eye donation camps have also
raised the pledge ceremonies happening to donate eyes.
With one fourth of the world's blind population living in India -
numbering around 11.25 million - blindness is identified as a
major health problem in the country.
In an effort to promote and create awareness about eye donations,
the Venu Eye Institute recently hosted an eye donation fortnight
in the capital that saw the participation of over 1,500 school
students in a slogan writing and poster-making competition.
"The need of the hour is to educate the masses on eye donation.
People need to be aware; eye donation requires a strong
will and medical help at the time of death," said Bose.
According to an eye bank advisory, the procedure for eye donation
requires a call by the donor's kin to the nearest eye bank within
six hours of his or her death.
"Eye extraction takes less than 20 minutes. Later, these eyes are
transplanted to a recipient body through the process of cornea
transplant," added Bose.
Tanvi Kavishwar was one such donor who died last May at the age of
17 from meningitis. At 13, she had expressed a desire to donate
her eyes. With tears in his eyes, Tanvi's father Sadanand
Kavishwar recalls the moment and says with pride that his daughter
is still able to "see" him.
"She wanted to donate her eyes. I am proud to be her father and
feel that she can still see me," said Sadanand Kavishwar.
"Donate eyes - you have the power in you to help visually-impaired
people see this world," he added. He was felicitated at an eye
donation ceremony in the capital.
While cataract is responsible for nearly 20 million of the 45
million blind people in the world, the second major cause of
concern is corneal blindness. Cataract blindness can also be
treated through surgery.
Sonkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)