Nothing gives more joy to the man to whom eradication of blindness is the dream, vision and purpose of life than the opening of a new vision care facility and the joy becomes boundless when the new initiative is by an old student and friend of Sankara Nethralaya, driven by the same value sets and principles that govern the ‘Temple of the Eye’.
A new ophthalmic center simply means greater reach of eye care and relief from visual impairments to a larger number of people in a new region and a step closer to the ultimate goal of total blindness eradication.
Dr S.S. Badrinath, Founder & Chairman Emeritus, Sankara Nethralaya, inaugurated and blessed the “Sarakshi Netralaya” a State of the Art ophthalmic facility at Nagpur being started by a member of the extended Sankara Nethralaya family, a favourite student and former Consultant at Sankara Nethralaya, Dr. Prashant Bawankule.
We take great pleasure in sharing below a most touching coverage and key observations made by ‘Chief’ to the local press.
Talking to Dr S.S. Badrinath, a global guru of Ophthalmology is an experience that will remain etched in my memory forever. His simplicity and modesty defy his fame and deny people a realization of his worth. Ever since he became a student of Ophthalmology more than 50 years ago, Dr. Badrinath has made the eyeball his lifetime mission. That is why, the interaction with this eminent ophthalmologist does not only involve the eye but also the vision — of life and its expanded circle of excellence.
What triggered the quest for excellence in this man of world repute? Dr. Badrinath was blessed with an awareness right from Day One that excellence is a never-ending journey, without destination and without culmination. It was this point that led him to delve ever deeper and rise ever higher in understanding the complex simplicity of human eye. This awareness also led him to go beyond the machines that dominate ophthalmology today and made him rely more on a super-fine human judgment that transcends the limitations of technology.
Talking to ‘The Hitavada’ on the sidelines of the inaugural of a state-of-the-art eye clinic by one of his favourite student — Dr Prashant Bawankule — Dr Badrinath highlighted the fundamentals of ophthalmology in terms so simple that even a five-year-old can understand. His effort all along was to stress that human eye was a very delicate organ that needed absolute carefulness in handling, so much so that he prohibits people from washing the eye with water. Water can infect the eye, he cautions. Therefore, he advises that eye need not be washed at all with any water but cleansed from outside with closed eyelids.
Still, Dr Badrinath lamented, many people did not care about their eyes properly. When in US, he read a book ‘Archives of Ophthalmology’ that mentioned that only 7 per cent ophthalmologists knew about Diabetic Retinopathy. “It shows how ignorant we are about the eye. Mass awareness about eye care is the need of the hour. Hence, I feel, if people are not coming to hospitals for eye check-ups, hospitals should reach out to them,” said the Padma Bhushan awardee. Dr Badrinath is a legendary figure in Ophthalmology and a Guru to many ophthalmologists in the country. The man’s life is an inspiring tale. His school education began a bit late at the age of seven due to some ailment, but it did not deter him. He lost both his parents in his teens, but went on to complete his medical studies. In 1974, Dr Badrinath had the opportunity to serve his spiritual guru Jagadguru Sri Chandrasekerendra Saraswathi Swamigal of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. During the same period once Sri Jayendra Saraswathi, the Sankaracharya of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, had called a group of doctors and appealed them to set up a hospital fully dedicated to eye-care. A determined Dr Badrinath left his private practice and dedicated himself to the cause of a charitable not-for-profit eye hospital in Chennai. Today, it is the world-reputed name — Sankara Nethralaya.
Through Sankara Nethralaya, Dr. Badrinath has started various initiatives to reach out to people especially those from rural areas as they do not have access to hospitals. Sankara Nethralaya has come out with the Mobile Eye Surgical Unit (MESU). There are two ambulances with MESU that have everything including Operation Theatre. These mobile units visit villages, conduct eye check-up camps, and perform safe surgeries, if needed. Of course, the legendary ophthalmologist understands the cost factor of eye-care. “Use of modern technology makes the surgery sutureless and more economical,” adds Dr. Badrinath.
The expert who has been raising the bar of performance consistently, is always looking for taking up new challenges as an opportunity to set new standards. The latest challenge, which he has concentrated upon, is Retinitis Pigmentosa or RP. It is a hereditary condition, which reduces vision. A person suffering from RP develops night-blindness and gradually becomes blind. The cause of RP is still not known. A lot of research is going on worldwide. Transplanting stem-cells and allowing them to replace degenerating cells under the retina is a procedure done in London and New York, but it is very costly. Still, all types of RP are not treated through this therapy. The kind of equipment needed for this therapy are so costly that it is impossible for India to conduct this therapy at this stage, says Dr. Badrinath. But, he is not to be deterred by difficulties. Sankara Nethralaya is doing research on RP and has developed a gene ‘RPE-65’, which helps in knowing if stem cell transplant is useful for a patient suffering from RP. In this era of scientific advancements, hopes are high about transplant of each and every organ. Vision of many has been restored, thanks to corneal tranplant. Can retinal transplant be done? Dr Badrinath replies, “No. Retina is a part of brain and transplant is not possible.”
‘Pesticide, insecticide are retinotoxic’
With advancing age, human beings tend to develop problems related to vision, medically known as Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD). How should this be tackled? Dr S S Badrinath answers, “When I returned from USA, ARMD was still unknown. With enhanced life expectancy, population of old persons too is increasing in India. This increases risk of ARMD. Pesticide and insecticide are retinotoxic, and they contribute to degeneration of vision in old age.”
Raipur hospital follows Sankara Nethralaya
Sankara Nethralaya is not only a world-renowned institution in eye-care, but also a temple of dedication that has inspired others. All the doctors at Sankara Nethralaya work in a dedicated manner. None of them does private practise. Taking a leaf out of Sankara Nethralaya’s dedicated service to people, Raipur-based Aurobindo Netralaya also has doctors like Dr Anand Saxena who do not practise privately. The profit earned by Sankara Nethralaya is rolled into hospital only. When Nani Palkhivala came to know about this, he donated all his shares to the hospital. He wrote in his will that except some household things and a house, all his property be donated to Sankara Nethralaya.
No exercise for eyes please…
Some people say there are exercises for eyes that reduce the number of lenses and strengthen eyes. Do these ‘exercises’ really help? ‘NO’, is Dr Badrinath’s answer. “There is no exercise as such for eyes. Even cleaning eyes with tap water is very bad and can harm eyes. The PH value of tap water and that of eye-fluid is not the same,” he advises. The eminent ophthalmologist also advises to watch television from a certain distance with sufficient light in the room. According to him, one should watch television or work on computer for 20 minutes and then take a break to stare elsewhere for 20 seconds at least. This is his ‘Formula 20:20:20’. “Do not watch TV or work on computer when your eyes are tired. Not taking these precautions can damage eyes severely. Eyes blink 20 times in a minute, but this also may get reduced and lead to Dry Eye Syndrome,” Dr Badrinath cautions.