The Tele-ophthalmology team at the Aditya Birla Sankara Nethralaya reached a new milestone in outreach and community ophthalmology by conducting a two day eye care camp in one of the most remote and inaccessible parts of the State. The camp co-ordinated by Shri Kaushik Adhikary, Senior Optometrist, Aditya Birla Sankara Nethralaya was conducted at Dayapur, Kosaba in the Sunderbans region which is among the most economically and socially backward regions with the lowest literacy rate and an alarmingly high instance of water borne infections caused due to non-availability of clean water. The area selected typified a no man’s land with the nearest tarred road ending miles away at the 24 parganas, and no supply of electricity. The fact that there were no roads in sight, would help us gauge the availability of eye care, which made it a challenge to the Aditya Birla Sankara Nethralaya Tele-ophthalmology Team
The outdoor team travelled for 3 hours by motorboat and when the water level was too shallow for a motorized boat to sail they switched over to a smaller boat for a 20 minute sail in the swampy marshlands between the thick mangrove forests, a place which is a real time illustration of the idiom “Between the devil and the deep sea” since the mid-stream of this waterway is infested with huge salt water alligators (gharial) that prey on humans and the royal Bengal tigers lift unsuspecting boat passengers venturing close to the shore by making a sudden appearance from behind the mangroves.
A huge crowd of 700 villagers waiting expectantly with hopes of gaining better vision, unmindful of the heavy downpour made the day for the Tele-ophthalmology team and made their arduous ordeal worthwhile, the hope and faith reposed in them by the simple villagers who had no other means to eye care filled the members of the Tele-ophthalmology team with a strong sense of purpose and infused them with new energy levels. The outdoor team examined 330 people in strict adherence to protocol and the rest were given an alternate date for their screening. Over 80 spectacles were distributed free on the spot and specifications noted for 230 pairs and 61 patients were identified as needing cataract surgery.
July 28th and 29th would be remembered as red letter days in Sankara Nethralaya’s community ophthalmology initiatives and a strong example of the spirit of reaching out passionately. The Gosaba camp in close proximity to the Sajnekhali Tiger Reserve forest was an ultimate challenge to the will and resilience of the Aditya Birla Sankara Nethralaya Tele-Ophthalmology team and triggered the spirit of adventure in them for a noble cause.