Each year, the Sai Maa Vishnu Shakti Trust sponsors 100 operations for those who have lost their sight through cataracts. In conjunction with the program administrators, the Vivekanand Mission, the Trust runs eye camps every weekend during the winter months. The winter months are ideal for cataract surgery as infections are mitigated through the cold weather, whereas the blistering heat of the summer months radically increases the potential for infection. The cost for cataract surgery in the West is approximately $500, but here in India, we provide this service for free to the program beneficiaries.
While at the office I have the opportunity to meet with Sunichhara Devi, a recently widowed woman of 68 years of age. She is one of the first patients to receive surgery on this day and now has a huge gauze bandage on her right eye. Most of the patients are women and all of them elderly. Cataracts are a huge problem in India, so the opportunity to have their sight restored means much to these villagers. Instead of being an increasing burden in their own homes, they are now able to support their households again.
All the surgeries are successful and now the villagers will participate in a thorough 30-day out-patient program to give the optimal chance for them to regain their sight. Upon leaving the surgery, they are given medicines to last them 15 days, at which time the next camp to check on their recovery will be held. These camps are held near the villages 15 days and then 30 days following the surgeries. Each patient is also given a dark set of glasses to protect their eyes from light and, more importantly, to remind them not to touch their eyes. Even a causal brush of their fingers against their eyes can lead to an infection. Infection is the primary cause of failed cataract treatments. All the surgeries themselves are successful, but 1 in 100 get an infection that results in the loss of the eye.
I have previously attended these inspection camps and the mood of the villagers is always one of great gratitude. They are beyond happy, chanting "Sai Maa Ki Jai! Sai Maa Ki Jai!" (Victory to Sai Maa!) I thank each of you for your continued love and support that not only makes these programs available and successful, but also makes an unquantifiable difference in these people's lives.