‘His mother’s perseverance made us take it up as a challenge and we performed the surgery”

“The doctor is wearing a blue shirt…he is carrying a rose colour notebook and there is a yellow board outside” — these are not the words of a kindergarten child identifying colours in a classroom but of a jubilant man who regained his eyesight after 18 years and 14 surgeries.

The case of 37-year-old M. Senthilkumar of Palani was a hopeless one even for the eye surgeons of Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai. It was such a complicated case that doctors had recorded in the case-sheet that nothing could be done to restore the patient’s vision.

But Senthilkumar’s persistence paid off. Following a corneal procedure performed at the hospital on April17, he found he could see with his right eye.

“Senthilkumar became completely blind owing to a reaction of some medicines he took for tuberculosis. It is called Steven Johnson Syndrome and it can even be fatal. But his mother’s perseverance made us take it up as a challenge and we did keratoprosthesis surgery,” N.Venkatesh Prajna, Chief of Cornea Department, who performed the advanced procedure, told The Hindu on Saturday.

Senthikumar’s mother Nagarathnamma survives on an old age pension.

Senthilkumar was a Class 8 student in 1995 when the world around him started to blur. The medication he was on was robbing him of his vision, until on the advice of doctors he discontinued his studies.

He underwent a battery of surgical procedures at the Aravind Eye Hospital. Senior ophthalmologists M. Srinivasan and Usha Kim sought to produce fluid in the eye to generate artificial tissues. After repeated attempts over the past 18 years, the doctors decided to perform keratoprosthesis surgery on Senthikumar. A custom-made optical cylinder was designed at the hospital’s Aurolab and the ‘AuroKpro’ was inserted in the right eye.

“The surgeries were done free of cost because we understand the plight of a person who suddenly loses eyesight. It is not about the surgery, but the technology available to restore vision,” Dr. Prajna said.

Senthilkumar will be put under observation for six months to a year before a decision is taken to operate on his left eye. He will be discharged on Tuesday.

The Aravind Eye Hospital was grateful to Dr. Dohlman of Harvard Medical School in the US. “He identified our Aurolab in Madurai to produce the instruments for this surgery at a cheaper cost. We supply to various eye care institutions in India thanks to the magnanimity of Dr. Dohlman,” says Dr. Prajna.