Atul and his family live in a semi-permanent home in Jogyal, a remote village located in the drought-prone district of Latur, India.
When he was eight years old, one of Atul’s classmates accidently hit him in the eye with a pencil. He felt pain right away, but then things seemed to get better… for a while.
Thinking his injury was normal, his parents saw no need to seek medical attention. Slowly, Atul’s vision began to blur. Soon, he couldn’t see out of his one eye. It was then that his parents took him to a private eye hospital.
The doctor explained that Atul had developed a mature cataract and needed surgery. His parents were frightened – more by the cost of treatment than the diagnosis. The cataract surgery would cost 25,000 Indian rupees ($487 CAD), which they certainly couldn’t afford.
Instead, they took Atul to an optical shop for a pair of eyeglasses. The glasses seemed to help initially, but they weren’t the treatment Atul so desperately needed to restore his sight.
For six years, Atul lived with a cataract in one eye, which worsened over time. “It was a tough time for me,” he says. “I thought I would go blind and wouldn’t live long.”
He had difficulties studying and reading the chalkboard at school, but he didn’t dare tell his friends or teachers. What if they made fun of him?
Atul suffered silently. His grades began to fall, and he started skipping school.
“I used to love going to school and meeting my friends,” he explains. “I was popular in my class and teachers liked me, but then I started performing poorly on exams and my teachers scolded me. I couldn’t play cricket or other sports with my friends, and my parents lost confidence in me.”
Luckily, Atul’s village was selected to be part of a Hospital-Based Community Eye Health Project, a partnership between Operation Eyesight and Udaygiri Lions Eye Hospital in the nearby town of Udgir. During a door-to-door survey, a community health worker discovered Atul had poor vision. A short time later, an optometrist visited the village and confirmed Atul’s diagnosis.
After much counselling from the optometrist, community health workers, village leaders and his teachers, Atul agreed to go to the hospital for cataract surgery. Thanks to Operation Eyesight’s generous donors, he finally received the treatment he needed – all at no cost to his family. He also received a free new pair of prescription eyeglasses.
“I can now go to school, play with my friends and concentrate on my studies,” he says. “My parents are happy with me. I can fulfil my dreams now!”
Atul, now 14 years old, aspires to help others overcome their fear of eye surgery so they don’t have to suffer like he did for so many years.
“I’m deeply indebted to all those who never gave up on me,” he says. “They visited me continuously for a week, spoke to village leaders and school teachers, and motivated me to go to the hospital. The community health worker and eye doctor even visited me after the surgery. I’m so thankful!”
Because of our amazing donors, Atul can now enjoy all of the things a teen should be able to enjoy! You can help more teens like him by supporting our community outreach programs. Please donate today.