Many of these patients stayed overnight at the Vivekanand Mission Hospital. To accommodate everyone, rooms were converted to makeshift dorm facilities with beds, mattresses, blankets, and linen lining the rooms and hallways.
This year, it has been more difficult to attract the villagers to the cataract surgery program. There was an incident in one of the government administered cataract programs in the neighboring state of Madhya Pradesh where 11 patients lost their eyesight. It was in all the newspapers and is common knowledge among all the villagers.
Still, the villagers go through the initial screening process and 15 to 25 patients are selected. During the final screening for diabetes and other health tests, another 2 to 3 people are usually found to be ineligible. However, when the day of the operation comes, many of the approved villagers decide to wait, announcing their concerns and asking to wait for the next available surgery event. They want to see how the other patients do during their surgeries before they commit. Several of our screening camps have yielded as low as 3 surgery patients instead of the usual 20.
It is always such a joy for me to be at these completion ceremonies. Not only are the villagers given hot chai and cookies with their medicines, but also blankets for the cold. Each patient is also given a gift bag with a beautiful picture of Sai Maa, with a book of Hindi chants. Everyone leaves with a little something, in addition to vision and a blessing from Sai Maa.