The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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14 lose eye after free-camp infection

Guwahati, Oct. 8: At least 14 cataract patients have lost an eye each after they picked up an infection from a free treatment camp in Assam and 20 more are facing the same fate.

Doctors at Sankara Nethralaya in Chennai, where 36 patients were sent for super-speciality treatment, said a majority does not stand a chance of recovering vision because of the time wasted in deciding to seek their expertise.

The cataract patients contracted the debilitating infection after surgery at the government-organised eye camp at the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology of Gauhati Medical College Hospital (GMCH) last month.

Five of the patients who had been sent to Chennai at government cost returned to Assam yesterday while nine more arrived today. All of them lost one eye each and they have been provided with marble eyeballs.

The Assam government had sent 36 patients to Sankara Nethralaya. After a preliminary examination, ophthalmologists informed the government that the prognosis was not good for all but two of the patients.

One of the unlucky patients, Bichitra Deka, said: “I lost vision in my left eye. I had come to the GMCH with great hope, little knowing what lay in store for me. Doctors in Chennai said the infection in my eye was severe and beyond treatment due to the delay in going to them.”

For Amirjaan Bibi of central Assam’s Morigaon, the trip to Chennai and back was one of darkness and pain.

“I came to Guwahati on September 11 and was operated upon on September 13 at the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology. Two days later, I discovered that I had an infection. Till September 30, I was at the hospital with pain and swelling in my eye. On October 1, I was taken to Chennai, only to hear from doctors that there was no chance of regaining vision,”she said.

Bhaben Haloi, Mohd Musahaq Ali and Ayubur Rahman were among the nine patients who returned today with similar stories. “Doctors at GMCH had promised my father that he would get back his vision. But he has become partially blind for the rest of his life. We are very poor. Will the government do something for us'” Ayubur’s son Billal asked.

The son of one of the patients said from Chennai that all seven who were flown to Chennai yesterday had lost vision in one eye.

“My father and six others reached Chennai yesterday. Doctors declared that all seven of them would not regain vision due to the delay in treatment,” Sopin Ahmed told The Telegraph over phone.

One of the two patients who have responded well to treatment at Sankara Nethralaya is 72-year-old Satyabati Devi.

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