Fifty five-year-old Gangubai Patil finally has a reason to smile. One of the residents at Anandwan, a rehabilitation centre for leprosy patients that was started by Baba Amte, Patil was pleased when doctors told her she could get back to work within 40 days of having undergone a cataract surgery.
“Unlike the outside world, we get respect here; we are not victimised. We work and lead a beautiful life. I get restless if I have no work. I am glad the doctors have now allowed me to work,” Patil said, echoing the sentiments of the over 1,500 people permanently living at the rehabilitation centre who are now disease-free.
For the past 15 years, doctors from JJ Hospital and coordinators from iCare Foundation, a Mumbai-based non-governmental organisation (NGO), have been visiting Anandwan in the state’s Chandrapur district to treat eye-related problems of the people living there.
This year, more than 10,000 residents and tribals from surrounding areas attended the eye check-up camp, and 1,701 of them got operated for vision-related problems they suffered from.
“The crowd keeps increasing every year. Most people attending the camps here are tribals, disabled people and labourers. Patients come from different districts including Nagpur, Gadchiroli and Chandrapur,” Baba Amte’s son Dr Vikas Amte said, adding that most people are satisfied with the treatment they receive for their vision-related problems and that the dedication of Dr Lahane and the iCare Foundation team is unmatched.
Dr TP Lahane, the dean of JJ Hospital in Byculla who has been visiting the place for the last 15 years, said, “Cataract surgery is a bit complicated for leprosy patients. This is because post-operation care is very important. We advise the patients to rest for at least 40 days. This year, we operated on 1,701 patients with the help of my colleague Dr Ragini Parekh and others in the team.”
After surgery and the follow-up treatment, patients are provided with a free pair of spectacles, said Dr VG Pol, medical officer at the Maharogi Sewa Samiti set up by Baba Amte.
He added that some patients had been suffering from bilateral cataract for the past four years, and could barely see, but now they are very happy with their vision after the surgery.