Neha is a 12 year old girl from India and is affected by glaucoma. This World Glaucoma Week 2015 she talks with us about her journey and how life never has been easy for her.
I am the eldest of 7 siblings, my father is the sole earning member of my family and my mother is a homemaker. My father earns about 8,000 Rupees (115 euros) a month and we live in a two room mud hut built on the banks of the Ganga river.
Life hasn’t been too easy for me. When children my age began going to school at the age of four, I was made to stay home and take care of my younger siblings. As my mother is injured due to an accident, I took on most of the household tasks - cooking, cleaning bringing water from the river and so on. I finally joined school much later, but I was so happy to be sitting in a classroom - it was a dream come true!
Difficulty at school
When I joined school, my eyes suddenly started itching, and my vision gradually decreased. I was unable to read the letters on the blackboard. They became so blurry. I couldn’t focus my eyes on the board for too long. I visited many eye clinics for the next three years, but my eye condition persisted, and even became worse. The prescribed eye drops didn’t help either.
By the time I turned 11, I was almost blind in my right eye, and I couldn’t see much with my left eye. My father tried so hard, but we are poor people and we never had the money to visit a bigger hospital.
Soon I had to drop out of school. I couldn’t read anything on the board. Even worse, my friends didn’t let me sit peacefully in the classroom. I was bullied and called names like ‘ghost’ and ‘scary eyes’ all the time. I thought it was better I stay home and help my mother than go to school to suffer humiliation. It’s now been a year since I dropped out of school.
Finally my father brought me to Biratnagar Eye Hospital (BEH) in just across the border in Nepal. He came to know about BEH through a colleague, who praised the quality of treatment at BEH. My father, grandmother and I travelled four hours by bus, crossed the Indo-Nepal border and arrived at BEH.
At BEH I was directed to the paediatric department where an ophthalmic assistant, Sunil Chaudhary, examined my eyes. We were informed that I was affected by glaucoma, due to the high pressure in my eyes. He explained that they would try to save vision in my left eye. Within the next hour, I was on the operation table where an ophthalmologist, Dr. Pant operated on my left eye.
She explained that the eye drops I’d been using the past three years induced an allergic condition which significantly damaged my optic nerves. I came to know that I am almost blind in my right eye and that surgery would not benefit me.
The next day my eye patch was removed and my left eye was examined again. The ophthalmic team was very happy with the result – pressure in my eye has dropped significantly, which means that I will regain some vision in my left eye! I feel happy and hopeful about my future.
I have a follow-up with the hospital in two weeks! My family and I are so grateful to everyone who has helped in my journey. We hope to save my vision in at least one eye. Wish me luck!
For World Glaucoma Week, we speak with our colleague Dr. Heiko Philippin, an ophthalmologist working in Tanzania.