Renowned Vitreous retina specialist Dr Mahesh Shanmugam on Tuesday said the State authorities should arrange additional eye-surgeons for handling the rising eye injury cases in Kashmir.
"The surgeons at the SMHS hospital have handled the pellet cases very well and have gone beyond the call of their duty to work for long hours. But they need more hands to help them (doctors) to tide over the present situation," said Dr Shanmugam, who is Head of Vitreoretinal and Ocular Oncology Services at Sankara Eye Hospital Bengaluru. "This is not any ordinary situation. It is a race against time."
Shanmugam, who arrived here on Saturday, conducted 25 retinal surgeries before leaving back this afternoon.
Since July 9—when protests broke out in Kashmir after the killing of militant commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani—the SMHS hospital has admitted more than 360 persons with pellet injuries in one or both eyes while the total number of eye injury cases reported in all Srinagar hospitals is more than 420. The doctors at the hospital have been reiterating that most of the eye victims would require retinal surgeries to regain some percentage of their vision. "This is a war-like situation as the number of patients of this magnitude is unique and it is overwhelming for any department or hospital to treat so many patients in such a short span of time," said Dr Shanmugam.
Stating that the rising number of eye victims was "difficult part of the problem", he said: "The surgeons here are doing a brilliant job but you get overwhelmed with so many cases and it becomes very difficult to handle at times." "I am for the first time seeing this kind of a situation (eye injuries due to pellets) as it happens only in wars or in blasts," he said.
The SMHS's Ophthalmology Department has three retina surgeons who have been working non-stop for the past one month to conduct surgeries of the eye victims. While all eye patients who have reported at the hospital have been operated upon for preliminary treatment, the number of victrectomies (retinal surgeries) conducted by the SMHS's Ophthalmology Department is 120 so far. The job of the surgeons at the SMHS hospital is also becoming difficult in view of the increasing number of eye victims reporting here. On Friday last, more than 70 persons with injuries to their eye (s) were shifted to the hospital which forced the Department to put on hold the scheduled victrectomies and focus on preliminary treatment of the new cases for three days.
"Most of these patients will need multiple surgeries. Some patients I have operated upon will get 'some vision' while others will get 'good vision'," Dr Shanmugam said. He though the pellet injuries to eyes wasn't life-threatening, they had potential enough to make a person blind in the affected eyes.
In the past one month, the Government has shifted just four pellet victims to AIIMS New Delhi for treatment though it had assured to arrange required facilities for the victims within and outside the State for their timely treatment. Stating that "this conflict can't be stopped nor can people be stopped" (from protesting) Dr Shanmugam said the youth should "wear impact resistant glasses called polycorbonate glasses which prevent the impact on the eyes". "These glasses are available in the market," he said.