On Diwali day, as the sun was logging out of the skies, my mobile phone chimed. Expecting a belated wish, I attended the call only to hear my friend screaming out of agony and helplessness.

Sensing something had gone terribly wrong, I drove to her residence situated a mile away. At every few yards I was forced to stop, for a transforming cracker. The sky was dazzlingly lit up by a jubilant India celebrating Diwali at the expense of year-long hardwork by daily wage labourers and their children.

Once I reached her residence, I found all hell was let loose there, and the family members were virtually paralysed by anguish. A merciless cracker has smashed her seven-year-old kid’s face and the child was yelling in pain.

In the emergency ward of a multispeciality hospital, all the dirt, blood and remnants of inflammable chemicals were removed and a host of sophisticated investigations revealed that the child had lost his vision.

As I drove back home at dead of night, the sky started drizzling as did my eyes. Disturbing thoughts engaged my mind against my wish. The borderline between ecstasy and agony in a celebration is unfortunately very narrow. A fraction of a second of carelessness will turn things upside down. A slight sloppiness or a little negligence will mutilate life permanently.

As an ophthalmologist, I could foresee the plight of this young little boy. He will be put on the long waitlist of corneal transplant cases. Summers, winters and autumns will pass, but these patients will be waiting painfully for a distant spring to blossom.

In India, there are approximately 13 lakh corneally blind people waiting for a donor, since just one-fifth of the need is being met by donation every year. Regrettably, awareness of eye donation is explicitly low.

About eye donation

It doesn’t mean donation of the entire eye as perceived by many. It is only donation of the cornea, i.e., the clear, transparent dome in front of the black portion of the eye. Transplantation involves only the cornea, just a one-cm disc that is good enough to illuminate a family.

Anyone of any age can donate their eyes (cornea). Even very aged persons using spectacles or those with diabetes or hypertension are no exception.

All that is needed is that the eyes should be removed within six hours of death.

Eye donation will leave no disfigurement that will interfering with funeral practices and the entire procedure takes just 20-30 minutes.

Donors can make a pledge with any eye bank, resolving to part with eyes after death. In case the eyes are not pledged, the loved ones of the deceased can decide on the donation. Eye donation services by the government and voluntary sectors are provided free of charge.

Let our mortal self be of use to society at least after death.

Let a couple of lesser fortunate brethren (a pair of cornea will be transplanted to two blind individuals) see through our eyes for the rest of their life. Let eye donation find its priority in our list of New Year resolutions.

(The writer, a consultant ophthalmologist, lives in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu. Email: kalpana_kalpana@yahoo.co.in)

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