A practicing accountant for 15 years, Varsha Ved was living a rather regular life with her two children in Mumbai. That was until the year 2000, when she contracted conjunctivitis. At first it seemed like any other case, and the condition was treated successfully. Little did she know that not long after that, she would be hit with yet another eye-related infection. Only this time, it would change her whole life.
The second infection brought with it almost total blindness. Varsha, who was 40 years old at the time, was told by doctors that the infection had damaged her corneas, leaving her with just 10% vision. The only way to regain her eyesight would be through an eye transplant.
“I was quite nervous. I had never heard of an eye transplant before. However, my brother and my kids, who were quite young at that time, supported me enough to help me survive those tough times,” recollects Varsha.
She registered with EBCRC (Eye Bank Coordination & Research Centre) in Parel, Mumbai, and after what seemed like a long and bleak two-year wait, was finally called in for a transplant. About two months after the first surgery, she regained vision in one eye. In 2003, she underwent another transplant surgery, for her second eye.
“I received a lot of physical and mental support from my children. Of course, I am also thankful to the donor family, and Arpan Eye Bank, which supported me financially. But the truth is, no one has time in this city. You only know who your people are when faced with such difficulties,” says the eye donation evangelist.
She adds, “An eye transplant surgery can be very expensive today. It can cost up to a few lakhs, if you take into consideration post-surgery care, medication and hospital stay at a private hospital. Also, you have to remain indoors for a few months, which can affect your earnings.”
Since regaining her vision, over a decade ago, Varsha has not gone back to her old job. Instead, she has taken on a more challenging path – dispelling myths and increasing awareness around eye-donation. Instead of being a victim, she has chosen to be a victor. On her journey as an eye donation campaigner, she has so far helped over 1000 people. Unfortunately, her mission has not been an easy one.
“Religion is probably one of the biggest hurdle when it comes to eye-donation. But what is even worse is that there is no counselling about eye donation and the process in general hospitals. Sometimes the hospital staff asks family members to sign their consent on donor forms without informing them that a team will arrive shortly for collecting the organ. Finally, when the team reaches, there are issues and doctors have to counsel the families.”
Varsha is now working with several hospitals as an eye donation campaigner. She has a junior counselor to help her at Mumbai’s KEM hospital, but the number of people willing to donate their eyes is still low. Her current aim is to make it compulsory for general hospitals to spread awareness about eye donation.
“At the moment, I am doing my part and things are moving in my presence. But I want these things to happen when I am not around as well,” states this spirited woman.
To connect with Varsha or to associate yourself with raising awareness about eye donation, you can contact the Parel Eye Bank in Mumbai at +91 022 24164342/ 24162929.
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