Achievements

2015

“When you hold the world in your palm and can see it from a bird’s eye view, you tend to become arrogant – you do not realise that when looking from such a great distance, everything becomes blurred and that you end up imagining rather than really seeing things.”

Muhammad Yunus
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

Muhammad Yunus’ words were ringing in our ears for most of 2015. We witnessed a disturbing trend amongst policy makers to downgrade the urgency for tackling cataract blindness; but in Bihar we could see for ourselves that cataract surgery is still the most needed and most effective intervention.
The global campaign to tackle avoidable blindness shifted away from cataract to other eye conditions like diabetic eye disease found mostly in urban populations; but there is little diabetic disease amongst the rural poor who make up the majority of Bihar’s blind.
We maintained our worm’s eye view of Bihar. And the year turned out to be one of the most encouraging to date.

East Champaran

In February we returned to East Champaran district near the border with Nepal. Here Second Sight’s ophthalmologists had been active from 2003- 2009 as visiting eye surgeons to The Duncan Mission Hospital at Raxaul. At that time it was run by one of Bihar’s most dedicated ophthalmologists, Dr.Helen Rao. In 2009, the department virtually shut down. It was very moving to return to these villages and be welcomed by former patients.

A reunion- Dr Andy Richards is greeted by a former patient.

It was worrying to hear that there was now no hospital in the entire district serving their needs. Serendipity then played its part. We came across the Maharajah Hare Kishore Singh hospital (MHKS) run by a local trust with extensive contacts within surrounding communities. A nucleus of trained eye workers and a part-time surgeon provided the basis
for a Second Sight eradication of blindness programme. Their first ‘trial’ eye camp in Motihari took place in spite of the area being affected by two huge earthquakes whose epicentre was nearby Nepal. Five extraordinary Catholic nuns working with the Mushar community considered 'untouchables' by some, brought in 25 blind patients. In their first 9 months the MHKS restored sight to nearly 1,500 people.

A Motihari patient thanks eye surgeon Dr. Sudhanshu

We also trained MHKS paramedics to accurately test vision in small children and to refract them for glasses. In spite of hundreds of graduates now being churned out from optometry courses in Bihar, we noted this important gap in their training. As the lack of glasses for refractive error is the leading cause of blindness in children we felt some urgency to address this at all our partner hospitals. (Read more in the Field Report: Bihar Brief)

Patna City

The majority of the blind live in the countryside. But Bihar’s capital city of Patna has seen a big increase in population in the last few years and the inevitable slums that always
accompany this. The Vision Eye Clinic Second Sight programme started in February after Dr. Tarannum Fatima literally stepped over a blind man who could not afford treatment. Her most memorable patient in 2015 was a 19 year-old mechanic called Sunil who had lost his sight and his job. He now has both back!

Sunil

Muzaffarpur

Laxman Eye Hospital extended its wings this year, helped by an additional surgeon joining the team, and a new microscope and patient transportation vehicle donated by Second Sight. Almost 15,000 blind patients living in the rural areas of Sitamarhi and Dharbanga districts had their sight restored. In addition, along with the Second Sight policy of 'no cataract blind person within 5 kilometres of your hospital' they undertook a separate programme to ensure their hospital had not missed needy patients closer to home. The highlight of the year was the establishment of a basic paediatric service at LEH. In May Second Sight’s Anamika Tandon, a paediatric eye surgeon, carried out the first cataract operations on children and began training a local surgeon. Anamika returned with experienced orthoptist Rowena McNamara in December. (Read more in the Field Report: Bihar Brief)

Madhu


Sight for Madhu

Jamui District

Bamdah Mission Hospital, the oldest eye hospital in north India, celebrated its 125th anniversary with a bang. This has always been a single ophthalmologist practise, from the time of the early Scottish missionary doctors. The current doctor is Dr. Samuel Murmu who now has a stable and dedicated team covering a vast area of southern Bihar. Over 2,000 adults and 14 children had their sight restored this year. We identified high levels of Vitamin A deficiency in village children and began a mass supplementation programme with intensive dietary counselling of parents.

See it, treat it! Dr Anamika Tandon screens village children.

BMH also started an innovative project - an 'eat as you grow' market garden within the hospital grounds growing vegetables rich in Vitamin A. Dr.Samuel has called it Bachpan Bagya, Children’s Garden. The next step is to help surrounding villages start their own Children’s Garden. We are grateful to the organisation Vitamin Angels for supplying Bamdah with free supplements and for training two staff members.

Saran District

In April 2015 we concluded a six year partnership with the Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital at Mastichak. Back in 2009 the AJEH was at a crossroads -- curing around 7,000 blind people but not in a position to offer free surgery to the vast numbers that could not afford to pay. There were no female employees. We helped transform the hospital into a centre providing free cataract surgery to over 30,000 blind people annually. We provided specialist clinical expertise in other branches of ophthalmology. Second Sight’s Lucy Mathen was the catalyst behind a football scheme that grew into a huge education programme for girls who are now hospital staff. The vital English language programme was designed by Second Sight’s Sheila Brockelbank and clinicians and English teachers from the charity taught the students.

Katihar District

The AJEH’s most experienced eye surgeon Dr. Ajit Poddar also works part-time in his home area in Katihar District. In 2015 The Aditya Eye Clinic continued its Second Sight eradication of blindness programme.

Madhepura District

The year in Bihar ended with a truly joyful new project in Madhepura District. The Anand Eye Hospital carried out its first Second Sight screening camp in remote Ratwara village where the Kosi River causes devastating floods. No eye team has ever ventured there. Over 700 people made their way to the camp - some patients walked 15 kilometres across difficult terrain. The entire community came together to help. We treated any eye condition that we could and limited the cataract blind patients to 40. This was the capacity of the hired bus which had to be parked where the road ended. Patients were ferried to it in small vehicles. A significant number of patients were one-eyed – that is one eye was already irreversibly blind from another condition, usually on account of treatment by ‘quacks’. All the first day post-operative eyes looked fantastic and we had delighted patients ready to act as advocates for the hospital.

See you later; Madhepura patients waving us goodbye.

Dr. Amit (seen in the foreground of the picture) is one of several Bihar ophthalmologists who trained at a well-known hospital in Nepal famous for its high-volume cataract surgery. He has now brought home his talented surgical hands to help the people of his home district.

(Another Nepal-returned eye surgeon now back in Bihar is Dr.Jaishree Shekhar. She includes free eye camps for blind patients in her small ophthalmic practice in Hajipur. She and her surgeon-husband Atul Verma gave up lucrative jobs to return to their home state. We celebrate the work of all Bihari doctors returning to Bihar to contribute to helping the
poor.)

Odisha

And finally, let’s ring out the year with news from the state of Odisha and Dr. Shiva Prasad Sahoo’s TN team. 6000 patients had their sight restored under the Second Sight programme. And Professor Phil Bloom, a Glaucoma specialist, returned to teach and train and to learn. (Read his full field report: Recollections of TN 2015)


Prof Philip Bloom with Dr Shiva