Six-year-old Santosh Das of
India, flashed a giant, joyful smile after demonstrating his ability to pick out family members just one day after cataract surgery in Kolkata.
“This is the first time I’ve seen him smile,” said Dr. Janine Smith, an ORBIS volunteer ophthalmologist who led the little boy’s surgery. “I had no idea he was missing all those baby teeth.”
Santosh’s newfound smile was representative of the transformation individuals undergo upon receiving sight-saving surgery. The change affects not only the eyes but the heart.
Born in poverty but reared with hope
Santosh was born in
India’s third most populous state with more than 82 million people. It’s also one of
India’s poorest states, with the lowest literacy rate in the nation. Santosh’s father works as a day laborer when he can find work. His mother stays home to watch the children.
When Santosh lost his sight a year earlier from bilateral cataracts, his parents sent him to live with relatives in Kolkata, hoping they could find treatment for him. It turned out to be a wise decision. Santosh came to be one of just a few dozen patients chosen for free surgery as part of the
Hospital training program in that city.
“Santosh was an ideal teaching case,” Dr. Smith said. “We would be able to demonstrate small incision cataract surgery with no surprises. We didn’t detect any complicating factors that could hinder a positive outcome.”
Surgery benefits more than just one patient
The majority of the surgery on Santosh’s right eye was performed by Dr. Smith, assisted by two local ophthalmologists being trained in the procedure. Smith carefully explained every step of the process and answered the trainees’ questions. Under her guidance, the local doctors performed small parts of the operation themselves, expertly demonstrating skills they had learned earlier in the program. They would apply these skills again two weeks later, when Santosh had the cataract in his left eye removed.
Shyness disappears immediately
Santosh's Aunt Sona
One day post-op, Santosh’s Aunt Sona tested her nephew by asking him to pick out an “elder sister” — a phrase that refers to an older woman. Santosh reached out and grabbed the hand of an ORBIS team member in the room. Asked to walk toward an ORBIS doctor, he slowly proceeded toward the ORBIS medical team. That’s when Santosh’s effusive smile first filled his face.
Asked what his mother would think if she could be there to see his progress, Santosh remarked, “She would be so happy and have a big smile.”
Prior to the surgery Santosh was too shy to talk to the ORBIS team, but now he confidently responded to all their questions. When the team learned he had no toys to go home to, a team member soon returned with a ball and cricket set. Santosh eagerly took the ball and bounced it along the hospital corridor with enthusiasm.
Equipped with a new toy, new eyesight and a newly emergent smile, Santosh was ready to go home.
You can help
ORBIS has embarked on a mission to help create 50 pediatric eye care centers in
India by the year 2010. You can help. Please donate today and give someone like Santosh a reason to smile.