|Posted on:||Thursday, 16th December, 2021|
“I wish I received treatment soon. I want to study further and get a college degree. Later, I want to become a teacher and contribute to my family’s income.” – Omwati
Millions of people around the world are needlessly blind because they cannot access sight-saving surgery – and Omwati was one of them.
At just 14 years old, she had already been living with severe visual impairment for 6 years.
“I was in third grade when I first informed my parents about my declining vision. My condition was not so serious then. I had blurry vision in my left eye only. I managed to read what the teacher wrote on the blackboard. Gradually, my right eye, too, became blurry. By the time I was in sixth grade, I just couldn’t read the letters on the blackboard. I could hardly see beyond a few meters. Yet, I continued to attend classes. Last year, I fell down twice on the way to school. I don’t know what’s happening to my eyes. Nowadays, it’s hard to see things even close to my face. Everything appears so blurry and dull” says Omwati.
Now that her sight has deteriorated so badly, Omwati rarely leaves her home to see relatives or play with her friends. It’s seriously affecting her confidence. “My life has changed completely in the last few years. Earlier, I used to do quite a few household chores along with my sister, Sunita. During harvest season, I even went to the fields to help my parents. But these days I don’t feel like doing anything. I just sit at home when others leave for work. Despite my weak vision, I have never stopped going to school. But there are friends who often tease me and call me names like ‘crossed eyes’. That makes me very angry.”
Omwati lives in a two-story mud home in Madhya Pradesh, a state in central India, with her parents and 4 siblings. Her mother and father are farmers, but they’re barely making enough money to support their family – which is why Omwati still hasn’t been taken to the hospital for treatment.
“I regret that we didn’t provide treatment to our daughter. She has been suffering for far too long…” says her father, Udaybhan. “But I don’t know what to do. Our family has been going through an acute financial crisis over the last few years. We are somehow making ends meet. How can we afford the cost of her treatment?”
Thankfully for Omwati and her family, there is hope. A community health worker Manoj, from CBM’s partner Sewa Sadan Eye Hospital, visits Omwati at home.
“We are really worried about Omwati’s future,” says her mother, Changri. “Who will take care of her when we grow old? How will she survive without us?”
Manoj carries out an eye examination on Omwati, using a torchlight. “She has dense cataracts in both eyes,” he says. “Delay in treatment has caused her eyes to move rapidly while trying to focus. Also, the white spot is so clearly visible in her left eye. She needs to undergo cataract surgery to get rid of the white spots. That will bring a significant change in her vision”
Manoj explains the process of cataract surgery and convinces Omwati’s parents to bring her to Sewa Sadan Eye Hospital. “Please do not worry about the expenses. There’s an organisation called CBM. They will cover all expenses related to her medical treatment.”
Manoj travels to the hospital with Omwati and father – a journey that takes them three hours. The next morning, Omwati has more eye tests at the hospital, to evaluate the extent of her visual impairment.
By the afternoon, she’s ready to be taken inside the operation theatre – along with 27 other patients having cataract surgery that day. “I’m so happy today. Omwati will finally receive treatment for her eyes. I hope the surgery will be successful,” says Udaybhan.
Over the next 20 minutes, a team led by Ophthalmologist, Prerna, perform a life-changing operation. When Ophthalmic Technician Pratibha removes the eye patch from Omwati’s left eye, she’s able to count fingers held at about two feet from her face.
“The surgery was successful. There’s a slight improvement in her vision today. It will get better in the next few days. And it will improve further after the second surgery which is planned after two weeks,” says the doctor examining the girls eyes through the slit lamp.
Omwati is also prescribed glasses, to help improve her vision. “Papa, I can see things much better than before. The colours look so bright and lively now. It’s so different…” she says.
Udaybhan is amazed to hear this. “This is wonderful. I haven’t seen Omwati so happy in a long time. I’m so grateful for all your support.”
The real change can be seen a few days later, when Manoj visits Omwati at home again. “The last few days have been incredible,” says Omwati. “I can see better with the glasses. Now I have begun helping my family with simple household chores. I’ll attend school from next week. For now, it feels great to live life without restrictions.”
Omwati sits with her mother and helps remove husk from rice. “I can’t imagine Omwati doing this task just a few days back. It’s amazing how the surgery is slowly reviving her vision. I’m so happy for her… With glasses, she already looks like a teacher!” laughs Changri.
Omwati is beaming with joy. “Thank you so much for your support. You have given a new meaning to my life… I feel so positive and confident now.”
Omwati’s future is certainly brighter thanks people like you – and the Miracle of sight-saving treatment. However, her vision could have been vastly improved if only she’d been able to get treatment sooner.
This Christmas you can give the Miracle gift of sight to children living in the world’s poorest places. Go to www.cbmuk.org.uk/miracles
Every £24 you send today will help provide a 15-minute sight-saving surgery that gives someone back their sight. That’s what Miracles are made of.
Children living with sight loss and disabilities are more likely to miss out on education than any other group, making up a third of all children who are not in school. But education is one of the main ways we can stop cycles of poverty, because receiving an education means that there is a chance of better employment in the future.
The sooner we can reach children like Omwati, the better. Getting children back into school is important, and it’s crucial that we take action as soon as possible, not just so children have a better future, but so that their bodies can develop and heal properly after surgery.