Thursday, November 03, 2005

Sight and hope restored in Cuddalore - ReliefWeb

Sight and hope restored in Cuddalore

Baltimore, November 3, 2005 -- "Believe it or not, many opportunities and much good have come from the tsunami," said Dr. Thiru Krishnan, an optometrist and eye surgeon who works at a monthly clinic for hypertension and diabetes screening, nutrition education, and blindness prevention in Pondicherry. The clinic is run by ADEPT (the Academy for Disaster Management, Education and Training), a program of Lutheran World Relief's long-time partner, UELCI (United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India). ADEPT increased their capacity and expanded the clinic after the tsunami to respond to the many medical and psycho-social needs of area villagers.

Inside the clinic is a festival-like atmosphere as hundreds of men, women and children moved from station to station. In one area, villagers could receive a comprehensive eye exam and recommendations for glasses, treatment or surgery. In another, three young women -- new volunteers -- educated their peers about nutrition and the value of high-protein, low-cost foods. Across the courtyard, older men and women had their blood pressure tested and received information about hypertension and how to avoid or control it. Finally, in another corner of the courtyard, young nurses screened patients for diabetes and educated those who had been previously diagnosed about how to eat right or how to administer their own insulin.

As visitors from LWR walked through the clinic, one doctor and one patient stood out from the rest of the crowd. Dr. Krishnan's enthusiasm for his work was unmistakable. As he walked the group through the clinic, he introduced them to many patients and offered stories of sight corrected, sight given and eye-related diseases overcome.

"I could work many places in this country or in the world but none would be as exciting as working here," he told LWR President, Kathryn Wolford. When Wolford asked him why he enjoyed his work at the clinic so much, he responded, "Nowhere could the need be as great as here. Many of the patients at this clinic lost everything to the tsunami -- their family members, their homes, their ability to work, their communities and their sense of safety." He continued, "In the face of such great losses, it is our duty to give something back to these people. I am honored to be able to give even a few of them the gift of sight, clear vision or a future without blindness. I am a very lucky man."

Dr. Krishnan excitedly introduced one of his post-tsunami patients, Sevaramun. Before the tsunami, Sevaramun, a 60-year old man with white hair, had suffered for four years with failing sight due to advanced cataracts on both eyes. Sevaramun had lost his wife and children in the tsunami and therefore had lost the people who could serve as his eyes on the world.

A little over two months ago, he attended an ADEPT clinic and talked to the doctor about his cataracts. At first, Sevaramun was too scared to have the surgery the doctor recommended but, over time, the doctor gained his trust and the surgery was scheduled.

Now, only 3 weeks after surgery, the doctor and Sevaramun excitedly demonstrated that sight had been restored to the previously cataract-clouded eye. Sevaramun covered his bad eye with one hand and the doctor had him call out how many fingers he was holding up and had him read a sign on the wall far across the room. Both doctor and patient displayed a contagious enthusiasm at the sight regained through this relatively simple surgery that would have usually been impossible for most villagers to obtain.

Life is bittersweet for Sevaramun, who has regained some of his sight but still suffers from the aching loss of his family, his house, and his ability to earn a living. In spite of his loses, Sevaramun spoke positively about his future. Now that he has seen, literally, how cataract surgery restored his sight, he will allow Dr. Krishnan to operate to remove the cataract from his other eye next month.

Before the LWR delegation left, Sevaramun told them that he had gained something from the Doctor and the ADEPT clinic that he thought he had lost forever: hope.

© 2005 ReliefWeb

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