Baby lost, eyes live on

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  • Published 29.11.14

Nagpur, Nov. 28: Eye donations are rare. Rarer still is a baby donor.

A young couple in Nagpur decided to donate the eyes of their infant daughter who passed away yesterday, six days after birth, at the Government Medical College and Hospital here.

Their hope is that their baby, their first child who could not live to open her eyes, would help a visually impaired see the world.

The infant, who was born with birth-related complications on November 21 and died on November 27, had perfectly harvestable eyes, the doctors said.

“I read about organ and eye donations on a banner at the hospital,” father Deepak Naranje, 30, said at his modest home in Rahate Nagar, a cheek-by-jowl city neighbourhood.

“I was distraught when the doctors told me that my baby would not survive. I was wondering how to inform my wife about it. That’s when I spotted the banner.”

Earlier, Deepak, a security supervisor employed at the Nagpur airport on contract, had been preparing with wife Deekshapali, 23, to welcome the baby.

They had chosen the name Deepaksha — combining the alphabets from their first names — if the baby happened to be a girl.

But their joy was short-lived. After the baby was born sick and did not cry at all after delivery, she was shifted to the ICU. The doctors then told Deepak she had little chance of survival.

After that, Deepak wondered if her organs and eyes could be of use. The doctors informed him that the baby’s organs were yet to develop but the eyes could be donated. “I decided to go for it,” Deepak said.

“It’s an inspiring example since the man volunteered for it. The couple have done a great service,” said Dr Ravi Wankhede, who campaigns for organ donations.

It’s only the second case of an infant donation at the hospital’s eye bank, in-charge and ophthalmology associate professor Dr Mona Deshmukh said.

“We get five to six donors every day at our eye bank under the corneal retrieval programme, but rarely do we get an infant’s cornea. It’s difficult to convince relatives even in accident or other sudden-death cases to donate their (adult) patients’ eyes,” Deshmukh said.

For Deepak too, it was not easy: he had not informed his wife in hospital about their baby’s critical condition or his decision to donate the eyes.

Instead, he took the consent of his parents and in-laws. “They supported me. I signed a pledge and completed the formalities on November 26. Our baby passed away the next morning and her eyes were donated almost immediately.”

Having learnt about it now but still struggling to come to terms with her child’s death, Deekshapali said she stood by her husband’s decision. “We’ve lost her but it’ll be good if her eyes help someone get vision,” the fashion design graduate said.