Thursday, 27 June 2013

Eyes on envisioning lives

Article published in "The Hindu" Newspaper on 25th June 2013

Eyes on envisioning lives


Virudhunagar district that has many firsts to its credit, stands number one in the State in eye donation. J. Ganesh of Sivakasi has been ensuring that. In the last eight years, he has harvested 1,148 eyes in Sivakasi and 2,512 eyes in the district providing vision to over 5,024 people and brought credit to Virudhunagar as the number one district in eye donation.

It is not easy to convince people to donate eyes. Even if a person pledges to donate his eyes, it is not possible to harvest them if his family members object to it. So, it’s the consent of the family that matters rather than that of the individual. The hitch in the process is because of the notion that the face of the deceased would be disfigured. It is only the corneas that are removed. And they are replaced with contact lenses. The latest surgical procedure enables transplantation of cornea in the eyes of two persons. Born in Kottarakara in Kollam district of Kerala, Dr. Ganesh settled down in Sivakasi 30 years ago. He was a member of Lions Club for a decade. When he became the president of the club in 2005, he wanted to do something useful to the society.

A casual visit to Arvind Eye Hospital in Madurai and a chance to see the plight of the visually challenged people made him focus his attention on eye donation.

Dr. Ganesh formed Lions Club of Sivakasi Cracker City in 2008 and channelled his energy towards eye donation. His attempts to create awareness by pasting posters and erecting flex boards at vantage points in the town proved futile. Success came his way only when he turned towards students.

So, he started visiting schools, colleges and teacher education institutions, and organised awareness camps, essay and poem writing competitions, quiz programmes and processions in Tuticorin, Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari and Ramanathapuram districts also. He organised such programmes in Kollam, Thirussur, Cochin, Thiruvananthapuram and Kottayam in Kerala also in Malayalam.

He educates students that anybody can donate eyes, including those who wear spectacles and those with cataract, diabetes or hypertension. Those people affected by AIDS, hepatitis, tetanus, rabies, meningitis, acute leukaemia or cholera alone should not donate eyes.

No special sterilised room is necessary for harvesting eyes. It is enough if the eyes are closed with a wet cloth to keep the cornea moist. The removal exercise will be over in 10 minutes.

Big role for students

Whenever a death occurs in a family, the student convinces the family for eye donation and informs the club. If there is a death in the neighbourhood, the student informs the club and the club takes care of obtaining the family’s consent.

When the team gets a call, it rushes to the house, irrespective of the time, to remove the corneas within six hours while others in the team prepare posters with a photograph of the deceased hailing the family for their gesture and paste them in the vicinity. Later, a function is organised to honour the members of the families.


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