This little one has a big future ahead

A woman holds a sleeping infant.
Written by Elizabeth Roden, Director, Marketing and Communications, published on November 24, 2023 Donate Today
A woman holds an infant on her hip.

Look at those big, beautiful eyes! This is baby Aarsh, from a small village just outside Moradabad city, in Uttar Pradesh. At seven months old, he weighs about seven pounds – what many babies weigh at birth.

Aarsh’s mother, Shabana, was only seven months pregnant when she delivered him prematurely. Little Aarsh had been in an incubator in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at their nearby hospital for 15 days when his parents learned that he needed to have his eyes screened for Retinopathy of Prematurity, or ROP.

ROP is one of the leading causes of vision loss in children, and preterm infants are at high risk of developing this blinding condition. ROP occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow and spread throughout the retina, the tissue that lines the back of the eye. These abnormal blood vessels are fragile and can leak, which can scar the retina and pull it out of position. This causes a retinal detachment and visual impairment.

To save a child’s sight, early detection and treatment of ROP are critical. Unfortunately, many infants go undiagnosed due to the lack of awareness of ROP and the lack of screening services available outside of tertiary-level hospitals. That’s why we are working with partners like C.L. Gupta Eye Institute (CLGEI), located in Moradabad city, to provide remote diagnosis and referral services for at-risk infants and their families. With a case of specialized teleophthalmology equipment and pediatric supplies in hand, optometrists from CLGEI regularly visit 40 NICUs and maternity centres across the Moradabad District, where they capture retinal images of premature infants with assistance from nursing staff who help keep the wriggly babies calm and still.

Three panel collage: Far left, medical device; centre, man holding device; far right, more medical equipment
Tasleem Qamar, an optometrist from C.L. Gupta Eye Institute specializing in ROP, shows the imaging equipment and tiny instruments he uses to screen premature babies. Tasleem himself screened baby Aarsh.

When Aarsh’s parents first learned their baby could have ROP, they were fearful of the treatment process, and they refused to have Aarsh screened in the NICU. Fortunately, the team at CLGEI are known for their compassion and persistence. After continuous follow-up phone calls and messages from the ROP Coordinator, Aarsh’s parents agreed to bring the little boy, then six weeks old, to CLGEI for screening.

Aarsh’s retinal images revealed that he had ROP in both eyes and required urgent treatment to prevent blindness. First, his eyes would be injected with a drug that inhibits abnormal blood vessel growth, then, at a later appointment, he would receive laser treatment.

A man and woman pose with three small children and a baby inside their home.
Baby Aarsh with his parents, Ajmat (father) and Shabana (mother), and siblings in their home in a small village in Moradabad District.

Shabana couldn’t help but get emotional she when she heard Aarsh’s little cries from the next room as the doctor did the injections. She knew that timely treatment was necessary to save her son’s sight, but still the tears streamed down her face. Her little one wasn’t even two months old, and he’d already been through so much.

Following the injections, Aarsh’s eyes were covered with bandages, and they were sent home that same day with eye drops and a list of post-procedure instructions. No doubt, the experience was a lot for Aarsh’s parents to take in, worrying about their newborn baby who required special care while also tending to their other children; but they took comfort in knowing that the pediatric staff at CLGEI were available to help them every step of the way.

A seated woman cradles and infant, a toddler standing by her side.
While being photographed, Aarsh’s sister (right) was always near, keeping a watchful eye over her baby brother and occasionally resting her hand on him.

Later that week, Aarsh received laser treatment. The procedure, which is done with local anesthetic, uses a beam of light to create scar tissue on the outer edges of the baby’s retina, which prevents abnormal blood vessels from forming.

Aarsh’s family went for several follow-up visits. His parents were diligent about making and keeping their appointments, even though it meant that his father, Ajmat, had to close his shop so they could travel to the hospital, which meant a loss of income. They were thankful that Aarsh’s treatment was provided free of charge. They were also grateful to the CLGEI staff who checked in with them and sent them reminders.

Four health workers wearing medical coats pose for a photo at a clinic.
Dr. Pradeep Agarwal, Director – C. L. Gupta Eye Institute (CLGEI) and Head of Pediatric Ophthalmology, and team in the pediatric ward at CLGEI, Moradabad.

Today, Aarsh is doing great, and his vision is good. His mother, who is also happy and in good health, says that Aarsh even watches cartoons on the television like his big brother and sister.

“Little Aarsh’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of our ROP screening program. Through the dedication of our team and the support of generous donors, we’re not just preventing blindness; we’re nurturing futures,” says Lokesh Chauhan, Deputy General Manager at CLGEI.

“Aarsh’s bright eyes now reflect a world of possibilities, and his story motivates us to continue our mission of bringing vision and hope to every child in need.”

Aarsh will require lifelong follow-up visits. Doctors have stressed to his parents the importance of regular eye exams, as infants with ROP are at higher risk for developing other eye problems later in life, such as myopia (nearsightedness), strabismus (crossed eyes), amblyopia (lazy eye) and glaucoma. In many cases, these eye problems can be treated or controlled.

Seven people sit at a board room table.
Dr. Troy Cunningham, our Country Director for India (far left), meets with Dr. Ashi Khurana, Vice Chairman, CLGEI (far right); Dr. Pradeep Agarwal, Director, CLGEI (centre); and Lokesh Chauhan, Deputy General Manager, CLGEI (second from the left) and their ROP team including Chanchal Bharbwaj, ROP Coordinator (third from the right); Tasleem Qamar, Optometrist (second from the right); and Samir Sutar, Head Optometry Services, CLGEI (third from the left).

Thanks to the generosity of our donors, the diligence of Aarsh’s parents, and the expertise of the staff at CLGEI, little Aarsh has a big future ahead of him.

Please donate today to help more infants like Aarsh.