Pellet horror: 48 retina surgeries in 3 days, doctors keep fingers crossed

Renowned retina-surgeon Dr S Natarajan has conducted over 40 surgeries of Kashmir’s pellet victims at general specialty SMHS hospital here.
Pellet horror: 48 retina surgeries in 3 days, doctors keep fingers crossed
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Renowned retina-surgeon Dr S Natarajan has conducted over 40 surgeries of Kashmir's pellet victims at general specialty SMHS hospital here.

Leading a three-member team of eye-specialists, Dr Natarajan, who is Director of Aditya Jyoti Mumbai and arrived here on July 26, said on Wednesday that the chances of the injured persons gaining vision would depend on the extent of the injury and follow-up treatment.

"It is like re-building a collapsed house. This kind of situation is very rare. We are repairing the damaged eyes but the recovery will depend on the extent of damage and the follow-up treatment," said Dr Natarajan.

The surgeons, describing the injuries caused by pellets as 'grave', said despite the best possible expertise and equipment, the recovery would depend on the extent of damage to the eye at the time of injury. "The timely-intervention by SMHS Hospital surgeons immediately following the injuries has prevented a lot of damage. But the restoration of vision will depend on how badly the eye has been injured in the first place," said Dr. Natarajan.

Describing the situation as "Emergency", the team of doctors said they had not witnessed such a scenario where volume of cases was so large. "I have never operated upon so many cases in a single day," Dr Natarajan said. 

The team, on a four-day visit to 'share the load' of the SMHS Hospital in treating the victims of pellet injuries, said that ocular trauma was very common all over the world but given the pellet injuries, "such cases are 'rare'."

The operating team consisted of six surgeons—three from outside and three from SMHS Hospital. The outside team, in addition to Dr Natarajan had Dr Kenshuk Marwah, Retina Surgeon from New Delhi and Dr Syed Asghar Hussain from Chennai. 

Asked about the chances of restoration of vision in victims undergoing retinal surgeries, Dr Hussain said: "Each patient has a grievous injury. Each one's recovery chances need to be evaluated case by case."

He said subsequent surgeries might also be needed in some cases.

"I am confident that when I leave back on Friday, the SMHS Hospital team will continue to do a wonderful job with these eye surgeries," Dr Natrajan said. "It is amazing. I have never seen any government hospital staff working so hard."

He said the eye surgery equipment and 'team spirit' at SMHS Hospital were "unmatched."

Dr Natarajan, who is a Padma Shri and President of Ocular Trauma Society of India, said he did not 'think for a second' when asked to fly to Srinagar to perform retinal surgeries on pellet victims. He said he 'would come back' to the hospital. "I have some international engagements. I will come back again here," he said.

Hospital authorities said on Tuesday, when the team of doctors arrived at SMHS Hospital, nine retinal surgeries were performed. On Wednesday, 15 surgeries were performed and on Thursday, with the addition of an operating unit, 24 surgeries were scheduled, of which 17 had been performed when this report was filed.

On Friday, another team of surgeons from Maharashtra will replace the team led by Dr. Natarajan. Dr. Gaurav Paranjpe who is one of the surgeons in the second team of retinal surgeons volunteering at SMHS Hospital said that the outside surgeons were 'sharing the burden'.

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