Aravind's Ring of Hope project saves the sight and lives of children and adults suffering from eye cancer. It was started in 2004, by Dr. Usha, the head of the Aravind's Orbit and Oculoplasty Clinic in Madurai, India, to help pay for the extensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments necessary to treat eye cancer. Aravind doctors give their time at no cost to the patient.
Thanks to our generous donors at Global Giving during the last twelve months 20 children suffering from devastating eye cancers received treatment at Aravind completely free of cost, including radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery, as well as room and board for the patient and family. Since its founding, the Ring of Hope has provided treatment for 444 patients, including 220 children with retinoblastoma and 224 patients with other eye cancers.
We wanted to share the story of one of those grateful patients with you. Recently, a family from Thanjavur, a village in southern India, brought their two--year old son, Mohammed, to Aravind Hospital in Madurai because he had a white spot in his left eye. Examinations at the Orbit and Oculoplasty clinic confirmed it to be eye cancer. The doctor explained to the family members about the seriousness of the boy’s eye condition, the nature of the disease and the need for immediate treatment.
Mohammad's parents readily accepted the doctor’s advice, and the hospital started three cycles of chemotherapy with a gap of 23 days in between each. After the third cycle, scan results showed a reduction in the size of the tumour. Three more cycles were suggested by the doctor for a complete cure and by the end of the treatment the tumour had drastically reduced in size.
When Mohammed returned for his follow-up visit, several weeks later, the doctor found that the cancer had been completely cured, and his vision was restored. Mohammed’s parents were at a loss of words to convey theirheartfelt gratitude. And, so are we!
Happy Mother's Day to all our mothers!
We are pleased to share with you these stories of the women who visit our vision camps and whose families have benefited from your generosity. While Aravind provides free cataract surgery, your support pays for families to travel to Madurai or one of our other 6 hospitals for surgery and for food and accommodations for their families during recovery.
These stories were collected by Pavithra Metha, grandniece of Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy, as part of her book about Aravind -- Infinite Vision: How Aravind Became the World's Greatest Business Case for Compassion. We hope you enjoy them.
VK Ponni is 65 and has all the makings of a ringleader. A skeletal woman with a cheerful, I’m-in-charge air, given to floral speeches. And yet there is something sincere and heartwarming about her. She was married to a local politician, who then apparently married two other women and abandoned her to fend for herself and their two children. She snuck away from home to attend the eye camp this past weekend and then quietly boarded a bus without informing her son or daughter-in-law whom she stays with. She phoned them two days later to let them know where she was (they’d assumed she’d gone to visit relatives). "I didn’t even bring achange of clothes with me," she confesses with a grin, "But I wanted to come here because I had heard that they do good quality here. Now I stink so much I don’t know how you’re sitting next to me. I’m not this kind of personyou know. I bathe every day when I am at home." It is impossible not to smile listening to this women and her childlike candor.Thenmozhi is Ponni’s relative. She is only 37 and has cataract in both eyes. Her vision was so badly impaired that she could only recognize people if they were standing a few inches away. She’d refused surgery up to this point because all the other places she’d been to were charging to much. Most of the women here are field laborers. Physically hard lives that begin before sunrise. Water must be pumped and carried home, meals cooked, children taken care of all before the strenuous work in the fields. I ask them what it's like being at Aravind. Thenmozhli smiles, "We have to work so hard, being here – this is rest for us." Only in India does a woman consider the experience of eye surgery restful.
Nearby is Kalyani - who is 50-years-old. A woman with a mop of curly hair (it’s grown back after she shaved it. An offering to God in exchange for the health of a loved one). She doesn’t smile until I ask her to “But I have a big gap between my front teeth” she says anxiously. "So what?" I say, "You're still beautiful -- and you don’t look fifty – I would have guessed 45." She nods her head at this, and her mouth curves into a pleased smile. "My mother looked like a little girl until the day she died," she says sagely, "I am like her." Kalyani earns 40 rupees (less than a dollar) a day as a field laborer. “40!” says one of the other women, “that’s impossible”. No it’s truesays Kalyani. Then they’re cheating you, says her new found camp friend. "That’s not a fair wage. The rest of us earn 60." It is hard to imagine the degree of hardship in the lives of these women. And yet, their resilience shines through -- as does the deep significance of what they are regaining at Aravind. Particularly poignant when you consider the fact that two thirds of the world's blind are women.
Saroja is 55 and has a luminous smile, it bursts forth with sunbeam brilliance. Her eyes and nose-ring twinkle. She wears a deep red sari edged with gold thread. She has a quiet air of nobility. And grace. These woman have all come on faith, some heard of Aravind from friends in their village, others form relatives who’d been, others picked up the news from the “Vilambaram” (advertisements) in this case autorickshaw loudspeaker announcements that had blared across their villages.
"We are going to tell everyone we know back home that if they have eye trouble this is the place to come. Mark my words," says Ponni, "Every camp that Aravind holds in my area from here on will be a great success – write that down if you want and put the date on it! People are usually scared to come for surgery but we’ll tell them what a fine job is being done here and how well they will be taken care of."
Retinoblastoma is the most common cancer of the eye among children, if diagnosed and treated early; children with retinoblastoma have an excellent prognosis. But the treatment is complicated, involving surgery, radiation treatment and multiple cycles of chemotherapy and blood replacement – treatment which is too expensive for most Indian families. Aravind doctors volunteer their time, but the donations received from Global Giving help us pay specialists and provide blood replacement and medication.
Today we would like to share with you a story of one of the patients who received free treatment at Aravind with the help of your support. The parents of a one year old child (patient) whose right eye was enucleated due to retinoblastoma; however the left eye was cured at Aravind Eye Hospital were thankful to all.
Rajesh (real name shielded), a one year old child, was brought to Aravind Eye Hospital -Madurai for a checkup when he developed a white spot on his right eye. After preliminary examination, a CT Scan was taken and the report confirmed retinoblastoma in the eye. The parents were informed and advised chemotherapy for the child. The shocked parents consented for the treatment which was given once in 23 days. In spite of the prolonged chemotherapy, the tumor could not be cured and the right eyeball had to be enucleated. By that time the disease had spread to the left eye however, it was in the initial stage.One could understand the agony and grief of the parents to whom Rajesh was the only child. When chemotherapy was started on the second eye, they prayed and waited with hope that the eye will be saved somehow, so that the child’s life will not become gloomy.When Rajesh was in his second year, his left eye was examined and the tumor was still there in a small size. Then it was given laser treatment and chemotherapy was also continued. On his second birthday, doctor examined his left eye and found the tumor completely cured. This good news sent the parents to the height of joy and they thanked God and the doctor for retaining the paradise of vision (atleast in one eye) for their son. They were advised to bring the baby for a follow up once in 3 months.In the meanwhile Rajesh’s right eye socket was fixed with a prosthetic eye ball which looked like a normal eye. On seeing this, the parents felt as if he had regained the original eye. Now, the gloom of despondency in the small family has disappeared with the dawn of a bright light of joy.
Aravind Eye Care System is thankful to all the donors who join hands with Aravind in providing free treatment to the underserved and help further their mission of “eliminating needless blindness”.