In Ward No. 8, the Ophthalmology Ward of SMHS Hospital, huddled together on a couple of hospital beds, pellet victims and their families discuss the latest updates in weather forecast. "If it rains, flights may land in Srinagar," Haseena Begum, mother of a pellet victim predicts. "But the newspapers said it will rain on Thursday," Farooq Ahmed, a teenage boy accompanying another pellet victim announces, much to the anxiety of others.
On Monday dozens of pellet victims having lost their vision, waited for Dr S Natarajan at SMHS Hospital, their last hopes pinned on this surgeon and 'one more surgery'. While most injured have already undergone multiple eye surgeries, they now pray for a miracle under the hands of the world renowned retina surgeon, a regular volunteering surgeon at the hospital for the past four months.
The officials at SMHS Hospital said that Dr Natarajan was scheduled to arrive at the hospital on November 21 (today) for this month's session of operating on pellet victims. This retina surgeon, who has also been awarded Padma Shree for his professional excellence, has already visited SMHS four times in past four months to do eye surgeries voluntarily.
The weather conditions that had made visibility poor did not allow any flight operations from Kashmir on the third consecutive day. Patients and doctors waited for the weather to improve so that Dr Nartarajan could land in Srinagar for the scheduled surgeries.
"We have scheduled 14 surgeries for Tuesday if Dr Natarajan is able to come," Dr Tariq Qureshi, HoD SMHS hospital told Greater Kashmir.
Firdous Ahmed Dar and Zahid Ahmed, both residents of Sopore who had been flown by the government to AIIMS for 'specialized treatment' on July 23 after doctors had done primary surgeries on their pellet injured eyes were again at SMHS Hospital. "We heard Dr Natarajan is coming to the hospital and called the doctors here who asked us to come," said Firdous Ahmed, the 25 year old lone bread earner of a family of family of five.
Firdous has already undergone four surgeries in his eyes and one of the surgeries had been performed by Dr Natarajan. "After Dr Natarajan operated on my eyes, I am able to differentiate between night and day," Firdous, who has been on a regular check up at SMHS Hospital since his surgery in August. "May be I am able to see some more if Dr Natarajan operates again on my eye," he said.
Firdous has not been able to move out of his house without being aided. "I cannot walk without help. Although, now, due to the different lightings of the surroundings, I can get a fair idea of where I am," he said. Like Firdous, many other pellet victims have also been hoping of improvement in vision with the repeated surgeries.
Nasir Wani, the 17 year old student of a Darul Aloom in Kupwara has already undergone four surgeries in his left eye injured by pellets in Trehgam Kupwara. "All I am able to see is a blurred light," the teenage boy said adding that although he had given up hopes of regaining any vision in the injured eye, his family, and other pellet victims had urged him to 'try again'. "I have heard he is the best surgeon. Let me see what he will do to my eye," he said, in a sad, dejected tone.
Nazrul Islam, a 21 year old youth from Budgam has been admitted for his third surgery. "They have already operated twice on my right eye but I have had no improvement," he said. "I cannot even see the light they shine at my eye while doing the check-up," he said. The class 12th student said that doctors were not able to retrieve the pellet that had 'gone beyond eye into the skull'. "They said it will not create any problem. But I will tell Dr Natarajn to take it out," he said.
"Perhaps it is the pellet that had gone beyond my eye that was preventing any improvement in vision," the Budgam youth said.
Doctors said many learning exercises were also planned at the Department of Ophthalmology but all activities were subject to the flight operations.