Pellet Plight| ‘Too many souls holding onto hope of light’

While issuing a plea to Chief Minister for augmenting facilities and skills at SMHS Hospital in order to make ‘better eye care’ possible for the injured, world renowned vitreo-retina surgeon Dr S Natarajan arrived at Srinagar’s SMHS Hospital Thursday afternoon for operating upon pellet victims.
Pellet Plight| ‘Too many souls holding onto hope of light’
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While issuing a plea to Chief Minister for augmenting facilities and skills at SMHS Hospital in order to make 'better eye care' possible for the injured, world renowned vitreo-retina surgeon Dr S Natarajan arrived at Srinagar's SMHS Hospital Thursday afternoon for operating upon pellet victims.

Pellet victims at SMHS Hospital awaiting the arrival of Dr S Natarajan heaved a sigh of relief when the renowned retina surgeon arrived at the hospital for operating. 

The Mumbai based surgeon, who has been volunteering every month for surgical interventions on pellet hit eyes at SMHS Hospital since July 2016, was not able to make it to Srinagar last month due to foggy weather that cancelled his flights a couple of times.

Dr Natarajan who headed straight to SMHS Operation Theatre from Srinagar International Airport called for concerted efforts in direction of pellet eye trauma in Kashmir. 

He impressed upon the dire and immediate need to upgrade the equipment, facilities and skills at SMHS Hospital, and hoped that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti would pay heed to the requisition sent to her office in this regard in August 2016 by Aditya Jyot, a foundation that D Natarajan heads.

"Project Splendid Kashmir is about providing the best possible medical care to people whose eyes have been injured due to pellets," Dr Natarajan while speaking to Greater Kashmir said.

He called the existing infrastructure at Kashmir hospitals 'inadequate' and stressed that not only the operating facilities needed an upgradation but the skills of eye surgeons, all over Kashmir, also required to be honed to improve outcomes of eye injuries such as those inflicted by pellets fired by security forces in Kashmir.

"We are still hopeful that we would get a positive reply from CM office for a go-ahead on taking the eye care facilities to the next level," Dr Natarajan said. He said the last month his plans to visit Kashmir were thwarted by foggy weather conditions as he had spent two entire days waiting at the airport for flights to take off. "I prayed for weather to clear as there were too many eyes to be cured, too many souls holding on to hope of light," he said.

This Padma Shree recipient eye surgeon who is President of three International eye trauma societies, International Society Of Ocular Trauma (ISOT), Asia Pacific Ophthalmic Trauma Society (APOTS), and Ocular Trauma Society Of India (OTSI), would be operating in SMHS Hospital till Sunday afternoon. Till now, he has performed 157 eye surgeries on eyes injured by pellets in Kashmir.

While describing pellet eye surgeries as 'arduous and requiring tremendous stamina and patience'  given their microscopic nature and requiring immense precision, Dr Natarajan said that he would do everything possible to make more and more injured eyes get better vision. "These injuries (pellet inflicted), have poor prognosis but where recovery depends on extent of injury and follow-ups, in addition to skillful surgeries," he said.

The current visit being the fourth visit by him in five months, he has pledged to devote 'a few days every month' to oversee treatment of pellet hit eyes.

As per official figures, at least 1100 people have been injured by pellets in eyes since July 09, 2016. 

International Nobel Prize winning rights group, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) in its December 2016 report titled  'Blind to Justice: Excessive Use of Force and Attacks on Healthcare in J&K, India' has called pellet shots, up to 616 fired in a single shot, as 'able to penetrate soft tissue even at a distance'.

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