The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Indian eye gives Pak boy vision

Chennai, Dec. 25: When 15-month-old Mohammed Talha Shahzad from Rawalpindi saw his parents Khuram and Kanwal for the first time at a hospital here yesterday, he saw them through an Indian eye.

Talha had a successful eye transplant at Dr Agarwal’s Eye Hospital here. “Mohammed Talha will now see through an Indian eye,” said eye surgeon and chairman of the hospital, Dr J. Agarwal.

“My son is by birth blind and it is a miracle that he can now see us, follow the light and see things,” exclaimed the father, Khuram Shahzad, who runs a small automobile workshop in Rawalpindi.

Little Talha is seeing through the eye of Maragatham Venkatesh, who could well have been his grandmother.

His right eye has been transplanted to start with. Dr Sudha, the director of the hospital, said: “It took a team of doctors four hours to operate on the boy.”

“Look, how it all happened,” Agarwal said, adding that the boy’s father sent an e-mail to the hospital, to which a reply was faxed on November 13. “We said we will see the boy’s eye condition first and then we will decide and try and do our best.”

Khuram explained that he learnt of the hospital from his father-in-law who lives in Dubai. “The Indian High Commission in Islamabad gave us a medical visa to travel to India within a week,” he said excitedly, grateful that the papers moved so fast. He said it was indicative of the “changing attitude” that is now setting up a dialogue between the leaders of the two countries.

The only difficulty the family faced was in getting tickets on the Lahore-Delhi bus, which was booked to capacity, and reached Chennai by air from the Indian capital on December 14.

“When we first saw the boy’s eye condition, it was very, very bad,” recalled Sudha. “(But) We had to wait for a week to get a good eye,” she said.

“Late on December 23 night, we received a call from the husband of 61-year-old Maragatham Venkatesh, a resident of Adyar in the city, who had just passed away and who had donated her eyes. Since the donor’s cornea was good, the eye transplant for the Pakistani boy was quickly decided upon,” Sudha said.

The visiting Pakistani family’s visa expires on December 31. “Depending on the condition of the child’s health, we will initiate steps to get their visas extended,” she added.

If everything goes well, the Shahzads would make another trip to Chennai to get their son’s left eye also transplanted after six months to one year when the child would have been fully rehabilitated and be healthy enough for another operation. “If only the direct air and rail links between India and Pakistan were quickly restored, more people could benefit from such travel,” Khuram said. Before he comes next to Chennai, the connections would have been fully restored.

Khuram said he had his boy’s eyes examined by several ophthalmologists back home. “In Pakistan, kafi ophthalmologists hai, but it is here we got the cure.”

“Everyone, even the sweeper of the ward, prayed when my boy was to be operated upon.”

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