A life blacks out - and lights up two lives

September 9th, 2008 - 12:39 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 9 (IANS) When Aditya Rao, the 10-year-old son of a garment manufacturer in the capital, died unexpectedly last January after wrong treatment for tonsillitis by a private hospital, his shattered parents did more than just grieve. They decided to donate Aditya’s eyes.And before Priya Khattar, a teenaged girl, died of cancer in May she too expressed a wish to donate her eyes before her death “so that they may give light to those in need when I am gone”.

Similarly, the family of R. Viswanathan, 74, had no hesitation in giving his eyes for donation after a family friend gave the suggestion.

They were among the 25,000 odd eye donations in the country - a mere drop in the ocean in a country where corneal blindness constitutes almost nine percent of the total 12 million blind.

“There is a huge backlog of 1.1 million corneally blind people in the country and every year year 30,000 new cases are added,” said Tanuja Joshi, director of the Venu Eye Institute (www.venueyeinstitute.org) that has played a leading role in promoting eye donation.

At a function Monday evening to mark the end of the fortnight-long National Eye Donation Day, fathers, wives, sons and daughters of those whose eyes were donated within hours of their death spoke of the need to dispel myths on eye donation and create more awareness about its immense benefits.

Venkateshwar Rao, whose son Aditya’s eyes were donated even as the family were coming to terms with his untimely death, said the fact that his eyes were helping two others to see was an immeasurable source of emotional satisfaction and solace to his family.

“Anuradha, Aditya’s mother, kept her courage and declared her wish to donate his eyes as his eyes were the most attractive and beautiful and would live on in others and bring light into their lives,” said Rao.

Krishnaswamy, a sports journalist and commentator, spoke of the need to make families “more comfortable” with the concept of eye donation and the need to spread awareness through the media.

“Once this happens, people would gain confidence and come out to donate the eyes of their near and dear ones as so many people among donors here have done,” said Krishnaswamy.

Arun Kumar, 21, son of a railway employee, was one of those who was an eye recipient after an injury from a cricket ball damaged his cornea beyond repair.

On May 3, Arun underwent a corneal transplant, when his damaged eye was replaced by a cornea from a donor. “I have a new life,” said Arun, who studies in Class 10 and aspires to be a chartered accountant.

“I and my family pray to god to bless the family who made the noble gesture of donating the eyes of their loves one,” he said tearfully.

Joshi said contrary to what many people think there is no disfigurement after the cornea is taken out from a dead person. Eyes have to donated within six to eight hours of death and the procedure takes only about 15 to 20 minutes.

And it is important to remember one eye donation lights up the lives of two persons, Joshi said.

Around 70 families of eye donors were honoured by Venu Eye Institute with mementos handed out by Mansur Ali Khan, better known as the Nawab of Pataudi, who has been visually challenged since his cricket playing days.

According to Venu, Gujaratis lead the rest of the country in eye donation while the Jains top the communities who donate eyes of their near ones after death.

(For eye donation call 1919 or the nearest eye bank)

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