Pellets fired by security forces on protesters during the ongoing turmoil in Kashmir has caused severe damage to vital areas for vision in eyes of at least 300 victims, making their chances of vision restoration almost nil, medical experts fear.
At SMHS Hospital, as doctors evaluate the extent of injuries in pellet hit eyes, they are reportedly shocked by the severity of the injuries. A senior Ophthalmologist said that they have recorded at least 250 cases where pellets have injured and destroyed macula, 'area near the centre of the retina in eye, the region of keenest vision.'
"These people, after vitrectomies and other retina surgeries might have peripheral vision but a blind spot in the middle," a doctor at SMHS Hospital said. He explained that the blind spot would mean that they will not be able to see what is in front of them. "They cannot read, cannot do daily chores… any task that requires a person to see. There will be a black hole always in front of their eyes," he said.
In addition, doctors said 40 people had their Optic Nerve damaged by pellet injuries. 8Optic Nerve is the nerve cable that transmits visual signals to the brain. "When the very wire that connects brain and eyes and makes vision as a sense possible is hit, the chances of being able to see are almost zilch," a senior surgeon at SMHS Hospital said.
Doctors said that the extent of damage to optic nerve determines the extent of loss of vision. "But in these cases," they said while referring to injuries caused by pellet shots in eyes, "the injury is so bad that there often is total loss of vision."
In many cases, doctors said, the pellets have gone through the optic nerve into the skull. "We have seen a huge number of 'across the eyeball' kind of pellet injuries and we try to repair the retina in such cases. But there have been some cases where pellets have snapped the optic nerve," they said.
As per records at SMHS Hospital, 15 pellet victims have been so severely injured in eyes that their eye had either protruded (proptosis) at the time of the injury or it had to be eviscerated (removed surgically). "These 15 hapless victims are left with only one eye, which in some cases is pellet hit too," Ophthalmologists said.
The visual outcome of surgeries in people whose eyes have been badly traumatized by pellet injuries is being evaluated by doctors. "This is a learning experience for us too. No book gives us account and details of such injuries. There have been no researches that can give us an insight into pellet injuries," doctors at SMHS Hospital, some of them from other hospitals too, have reiterated time and again.
Till Saturday afternoon, 890 victims with pellet injuries in eyes had been admitted at SMSH Hospital in the past 78 days since protests broke out in Kashmir following killing of Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani. 42 victims had been hit in both eyes, as per hospital records.