July 2022

Sankara Nethralaya USA Sponsors 2022 (MESU-Adopt a Village)

Sankara Nethralaya (SN) is a non-profit charity organization providing ophthalmic(eye) care to millions of patients throughout India for the last four decades. SN also provides ophthalmic education and India-centric research. Sankara Nethralaya USA was established back in 1988 to support the mission of Sankara Nethralaya.

The main goal of the Trust was to make our vision known to NRIs and seek their support for the Noble cause. Sankara Nethralaya USA is one of the trusted and well-respected charity organizations in the USA. The Trust also received Charity Navigator’s “Four Stars” highest rating for maintaining financial accountability and fiscal transparency for funds donated by donors and how they are utilized towards the stated cause.

Our two Mobile Eye Surgical Units (MESU) are operation theatres on wheels and have so far screened 110,761 patients and performed 20,407 surgeries in the remote villages of India.

70%of the population of our country lives in rural areas – many of them in accessible tribal areas. 70% of the Ophthalmologists practice in urban cities and towns. Many of the people living in rural areas are daily wage earners. From them to travel to the city will involve (1) expenses for the travel and stay in the city for themselves and an attendant (2) loss of wages for the number of days that they are in the city (3) loss of wages for the attendant. Unable to bear such a financial burden, many of them continue to live with blindness, which could be prevented, especially in the case of cataract.

The MESU project is designed to provide Quality, World-class eye care to the rural population, at their doorsteps, totally free of cost to them. This project is the “FIRST OF ITS KIND IN INDIA” and the only project that has been approved by the Government of India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to carry out the Cataract surgeries at the door-step of the rural indigent.

The Mobile Eye Surgical Unit (MESU), was developed in collaboration with Indian Institute of Technology and started serving the nation in 2012. A total of 94 camps have been conducted in South India with 13079 surgeries performed since inception.

Seeing through the ‘Eyes of the blind’

It’s practically impossible to imagine how a blind person struggles in day to day life. We can have a glimpse of it if we close our eyes for 10 seconds and feel the experience. Way back in 2000, our beloved Chief Dr. S.S. Badrinath conceived this idea of curing preventable blindness in a way no one could have ever thought of. There is a considerable poor population in our country who don’t have any accessibility to health care facilities especially eye care. Their poor eyesight makes them completely dependent on others for their survival, and they have to compromise on their self-esteem day in and day out. He thought of an idea in reaching out to these people at their doorstep and giving them an independent life.

It took almost 12 years for implementing this herculean task in collaboration with IIT Madras and that’s how the Mobile Eye Surgical Unit (MESU) was born. There have been lots of ups and downs in its journey, and one of the biggest challenge was acceptance by the society. As any new idea takes a lot of time and effort to harmonize itself with the society, so did MESU.

It was February 2015. when I became a part of this project and would like to share my experience here. Many people used to ask me why can’t we screen the patients and bring them to the base hospital for surgeries like other hospitals do. So actually what is the main purpose of MESU? Let me tell you that for any patient who goes to the base hospital post screening, there is a minimum stay of 3 days and the hassle of commuting. Patients who are daily wage workers suffer financial loss also. Also, there should be someone to accompany them. This discourages a lot of patients and they postpone the surgery to a later date specially handicap patients, elderly, daily wage workers and women, which complicates their condition even more. Here in MESU, post screening they come next day morning for surgery and within 2 hours they are back home. Most importantly, all the patients are operated by senior consultants and not trainees, so the chances of complications are almost nil. Not only that, we examine the patients post operatively at the camp site itself the very next day and a week later also and free glasses are dispensed to them after a month. All the services are provided right at their doorstep totally free of cost. So patients find this setup very convenient and encourage others to come for surgery at MESU. Till date, we have operated 20,119 eyes including both in Chennai and Jharkhand units and out of these almost 20 percent of patients were handicap and nearly 70 percent elderly. Patients wait for us to come to the same venue for the second eye surgery and avoid going elsewhere. We do face challenges at various fronts, but it gives immense solace and satisfaction, when we see someone living an independent life.

I feel service is not only through your wallets, but you have to give a part of yourself also. I would like to conclude with the famous words of American President John F. Kennedy “ASK NOT WHAT GOD CAN DO FOR YOU. ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR GOD”.