In 3 days, pellets ‘darken world’ of 100 youth

Ward No 8 at general specialty SMHS hospital here clearly reflects the agony of Kashmiri youth who have been hit by pellets by forces during street protests in the past four days.
In 3 days, pellets ‘darken world’ of 100 youth
Photo: Mubashir Khan/GK

Ward No 8 at general specialty SMHS hospital here clearly reflects the agony of Kashmiri youth who have been hit by pellets by forces during street protests in the past four days. And the scale of injuries and injured is gruesome, according to medicos treating these patients at the Ward.

For the first time since the injured, mostly hit with pellets in face and eyes, started pouring in at this Ward, medicos are admitting that the situation is "extremely grave."

"We have never received so many pellet injuries in such a short span of time," a doctor at the Ward told Greater Kashmir. "The surgeons are working overtime to operate upon the injured."

Till Tuesday afternoon, 115 youth, mostly in the age group of 15-25, were admitted at the hospital with pellet injuries. Hospital authorities said 93 injured had been "already operated upon."

While officials claimed over 60 injured had been discharged after preliminary treatment, doctors said the story was "different."

"Many youth do not want to stay in the hospital because police persecutes them and lodges FIRs against them," said a doctor, wishing anonymity. "After providing first-aid, we are left with no option but to send them home, or they leave against medical advice."

Removal of foreign body, retina repair and other sophisticated procedures are performed after a swelling in the eye subsides, according to per doctors.

Doctors said a pellet causes devastating wounds in soft tissues such as eyes. "It enters with a high velocity, whirls around, scraping tissues it comes in contact with and causes deep and dirty wounds," said an eye surgeon.

While a handful of people hit by pellets in the past three days have been lucky to get only lacerations in the affected eye, most have issues to worry about, the doctors said.

Over 90 percent of cases will not be able to regain complete vision, they fear.

"Most of the people we have here have been hit right in the eyes and pellets are still embedded in their eyes," said the doctors. "With such wounds, chances of complete restoration of vision in the injured eye are 10 percent."

"In rest of the injured cases, partial or complete loss of vision is inevitable, no matter where they seek treatment," the doctors said.

Those admitted in various wards in SMHS Hospital with pellet injuries in eyes are hoping against hope.

14-year-old Burhan (the name may be different due to police fears) has a blood shot eye and poke marks of pellets all over his face and wants to go back to his village in Pulwama. "I will not forget how they shot at us," he said, narrating how a group of his friends ran out of fear when they saw a forces' party near the fields they were playing cricket at.

"We were scared. We ran for safety," he says with a smile. "But now I am not scared. I will be brave.

But Burhan is ignorant of the fact that his retina and cornea have been punctured badly by the pellet that still rests in his eye.

SMHS Hospital authorities said the sophisticated and state-of-art equipment was available here to treat such injuries. "The prognosis does improve when you have such equipment," Government Medical College Srinagar Principal Dr Kaiser Ahmed said.

However, doctors said due to fear of police and FIRs, many injured leave hospital without seeking full treatment. "They leave for outside hospitals, sometimes after selling their property," said a doctor, who added that treatment in outside hospitals is "no way better than what is available at SMHS Hospital."

"It is important that the injured be allowed to get treatment without fear," he said. "We must attempt to save whatever vision we can. The fate of young boys with partial or complete blindness is scary."

The fears of doctors are corroborated by research studies.

'"In patients with closed globe injury all had a best corrected VA (Visual Acuity ) of >6/12, whereas in those with penetrating eye injury about 61.11% had a final corrected VA of <6/60'," states a research paper published in 2014 in African Journal of Trauma titled 'Pattern of gun pellet ocular injuries in Kashmir.'

The researchers attribute perforation of the globe, retained foreign body, and retinal damage as the most common cause of permanently reduced vision.

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