THE KASHMIR protests were a constant point of discussion when D Sivanandan, former state Director General of Police, and Padma awardee Dr S Natarajan met daily at a gym in Mumbai. “Youngsters were suffering from injuries caused by pellets in the Valley and I remember Sivanandan telling me to take a team and treat the patients there.
When Pune-based NGO Adhik Kadam of Borderless World Foundation (BWF) sent an appeal to opthlamologists, I knew I had to go,” said Dr Natarajan, who made two successive visits, one in July and from August 22 to 28, treating over 220 patients with pellet injuries.
While pellet guns were used by police and security forces to quell the three-week long protests that started with the killing of Hizbul militant Burhan Wani, doctors seemed a worried lot at the extent of injuries. In most cases, one eye is alright but we have tried to restore vision, Dr S Natarajan, who worked at Sankara Nethralaya before settling in Mumbai, told The Indian Express. Natarajan along with his team —Syed Asghar Hussain and Kenshuk Marwah —conducted as many as 220 surgeries in these two visits. Natarajan who performed 86 vitreous and retina surgeries said that out of 220 patients, at least 20 had vision loss in both eyes.
“During the visit, I even treated a five-year-old boy who was operated at the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS), New Delhi, as the retina had been detached after the surgery. These cases are extremely complicated and they will have to be followed up for a year. It takes at least six weeks after the surgery for the eye to heal but retina patients often develop glaucoma and other complications. Hence, we will have to wait and watch,” Dr Natarajan who will make another round of visit to check on his patients at the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital, Srinagar, in mid September.
According to doctors, the pellets puncture the eye globe (intra ocular injury) and cause irreversible damage. The BWF also contacted doctors in Sangli, Aurangabad and Bangalore. When contacted Dr Gaurav Paranjape from Sangli said, the condition of more than 200 patients was serious.
Recalling his visit, Dr Natarajan said that it seemed like a ‘ghost city’. “At the crack of dawn, we started surgeries that went on the entire day,” he said. Hospital authorities and Initially, at the local level, 370 people were treated and later, surgical treatment was provided to 220. “The plight of these youngsters in Kashmir who have suffered pellet injuries in their eyes is really tragic and we are trying our best to restore their vision,” Dr Natarajan who is also the president of the Ocular Trauma Society of India said.