Athar being examined at LRBT hospital
"The words pounded like drumbeat in my head. No cure, no stopping it unless you undergo corneal transplant" Athar, 19, reveals the trauma of going blind as a result of corneal opacity.
Athar’s mother told us that the signs of his condition were appearing shortly after he turned 10. Not just him but his three sisters also suffer from corneal opacity, which afflicts 14 % of the blind population in Pakistan. There is no treatment for Cornel opacity except that the person undergoes Corneal Grafting, an extremely expensive surgery that also requires a donor cornea.
Athar grew up in a poor locality of Malir Town, Karachi Pakistan with his four sisters. All of them attended a government school in their locality. His father had fits of depression and had taken early retirement and it was his mother who was determined to send all her children to school and worked day and night as a tailor. She had always dreamt of a better future for her children but her dreams shattered when one by one four of her five children started losing sight around the age of 10, with their eyes turning cloudy. His sisters continued school for a few more years but a stage came when gradually all of them dropped out due to visual difficulties. The desperate mother took Athar to an ophthalmologist before he reached that stage, but lost all hope when the doctor told them that there was no cure except for corneal grafting which costs $385 /- per eye. This was simply beyond their means and the grieving mother returned home with her son, who instead of becoming her support had become a burden.
It's a life, Athar once thought, he'd rather die than face. 'I just couldn’t imagine living into adulthood with this condition,' he told our staff. He tried to deal with the fear of dropping out from school by studying harder than usual but in vain, leaving him more desperate and depressed. Seeing his sisters who had turned almost blind he lost all hope as he could see himself heading in the same direction.
Then something happened that changed his life forever. A LRBT School Screening team in one of their routine visits, visited his school and discovered his corneal opacity. He was referred to LRBT’s Korangi Hospital in Karachi. There, after a thorough checkup, he was put on the waiting list of patients awaiting cornea donations. His sisters were also brought to the hospital and were also put on the waiting list. A ray of hope flickered in their lives and they prayed to God for a miracle. A couple of days later the lucky four received a call from the hospital informing them that 4 corneas have been received, requesting them to visit the hospital immediately. Hopeful yet scared they came to the hospital and were admitted for their surgery which was performed the very next day. The corneas were implanted successfully and while some vision returned a few days after surgery, it took almost 8 months before their full vision was restored, which is common in cases of corneal transplants. Upon his last follow up visit, Athar told us that he could not believe he was able to see again.
Ather and his sisters can now see and their hearts are filled with gratitude and praise for LRBT, its doctors and the generous donors. Ather is back in school now and has also found a part time job to support his mother’s income. One of his sisters has rejoined school whereas the eldest one has found a decent job in a bank.
From the depth of darkness & despair Athar and his sisters have emerged into the bright light of hope. They had all accepted it as kismet but were fortunate enough to have access to LRBT which changed their lives forever.
Help us change the lives of millions more like Athar and his sisters. Help us turn them into productive members for their families and society. Help us offer them a future.
Athar after corneal grafting