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”.


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