The Sai Maa Cataract Surgery Program continued over the Christmas and New Year period with surgeries performed at The Vivekananda Eye Hospital, Maharajganj, a rural area about 40km from Varanasi. The first 26 surgeries were commenced on the 25th December, but because of the large number and an inconsistent electric supply the last of these Christmas surgeries were completed on the 26th December.
The Christmas day surgery program and preceding camps were again repeated in the first week of 2017. As a result of these camps 16 additional surgeries were successfully performed on January 8th, 2017, with checking of the results on the 9th January.
Both programs were preceded by 2 days of eye test camps in villages surrounding Varanasi where over 120 villagers were tested. These camps are widely advertised with banners in prominent areas such as markets and on transport routes. At the camps, not only is the initial testing for suitability performed, but basic medications and other medical advice is offered.
At one of the follow-up camps at the hospital one of the carers excitedly pulled me towards her mother who had just received the surgery. Her mother had just described to her what she was seeing - seeing in detail - for the first time in years. The mother had been virtually blind with both eyes affected by cataracts and the excitement of seeing clearly again – even if only in one eye for now - had been too much to contain. We all hugged each other and the daughter begged me for her own photo of Sai Maa to place on her altar in addition to the one her mother had. The gratitude to Sai Maa simply flowed from her.