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Need angels to guide donors

- Lack of grief counsellors hits eye project

May 28: The Hospital Cornea Retrieval Programme of the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology has received a setback because Dispur has not created posts for grief counsellors, whose job is to approach and encourage terminally-ill patients undergoing treatment in hospitals to donate their eyes.

The programme forms an integral part of the centrally funded National Programme for the Control of Blindness.

“Though the Hospital Cornea Retrieval Programme is running here, we require grief counsellors who can approach terminally ill patients undergoing treatment in hospitals and motivate them to pledge their eyes for donation on humanitarian grounds. These counsellors are trained and know how to approach the family members of a dead patient and encourage them to donate his eyes. In fact, such counsellors and social workers are meant to look out for such patients round the clock in the intensive care units of hospitals,” Regional Institute of Ophthalmology director C.K. Baruah said.

Moreover, though doctors at the eye institute had trained a few grief counsellors under this programme about two years ago, no posts have been created for them so far.

“On an average, six patients die every day at the GMCH. If all of them donate their eyes, we can restore eyesight of many blind people. People still have inhibitions regarding eye donation. The transplants that have taken place in recent months have been done with the cornea donated by a few patients,” Baruah said.

Though many patients undergoing treatment at the institute require cornea transplants, lack of sufficient numbers of donors prevents them from undergoing the procedure. At present, specialists here conduct between two and four cornea transplants in a month.

“Even various NGOs can participate in this programme and create awareness about eye donation among people. It is the responsibility of the society as a whole to come forward and donate their eyes,” Baruah said.

An assistant professor at the institute, D. Bhuyan, said, “We have been maintaining a long list of patients who suffer from diseases of the cornea as well as corneal blindness and require transplants. We receive such patients from across the state. Though we conduct around two to four cornea transplants in a month, we want to conduct more such surgeries to clear the backlog of patients who have been forced to wait in the absence of donors.”

The state, too, lags way behind in terms of collection of cornea under the programme. The state was able to collect only 70 corneas against a target of 420 in 2011-12.

“Cornea transplants are required to treat corneal blindness as there is no alternative treatment available. Transplants are also required to treat corneal opacity, wherein the cornea becomes scarred, making it appear white or clouded. Corneal opacity may occur because of several factors like ulcers on the cornea caused by bacteria and fungi, injury and vitamin A deficiency, particularly in children. Besides, a patient of any age can suffer from such problems and require transplants to save their eyesight,” Bhuyan said.


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