Of nine family members, all but one child had blinding cataracts.
Both mother Chandrakala and father Sanjesh have experienced cataracts since childhood. Chandrakala tried twice to get treatment, but was told that nothing could be done. Sanjesh had also sought help for his children, but wasn’t able to get a referral for surgery.
According to Chandrakala, the children had trouble joining in. “While others are playing, they will sit outside the home,” he told us. “They will just sit.” Another daughter, Shrasthi, explained: “Some of our friends will say, don’t talk to them. These children are blind. If you talk to them you will also be blind.”
Fortunately, two of the daughters, Muskan and Anshu, attend a middle school where Sightsavers runs a school eye health screening programme. Teachers are trained to spot vision problems – and they were both identified as having cataracts. But as their parents couldn’t read, they struggled to take the next steps towards treatment.
Eventually, the family were visited by a health worker who discovered that all but one of them had cataracts. They were immediately referred to Sewa Sadan Hospital in Bhopal, about 60km away from where they live. Thanks to our generous supporters, they didn’t have to worry about the cost of surgery or transport: Sightsavers covered the cost. This was a huge relief to the family, who are all dependent on Sanjesh, who works in a factory.
The family were just about coping with the difficulties of living with blindness, but daughter Muskan said she was looking forward to being able to help more around the house. “After surgery I will be able to help more with the siblings, like in dressing them,” she explained. “I will be able to help them study also.”
As we spent more time with Muskan, her determined nature began to shine through. She even told us that her classmates thought she was lying about not being able to see, because she was still doing her best to study and take part in activities in school.
The children were all scheduled to be operated on first. Their surgeon, Dr Preena, explained: “If we catch them early, the results are better. Otherwise the eye becomes supressed.” Sadly, a lot of the family were suffering from infection, so only Muskan was able to have surgery while we were there.
Despite only one operation going ahead, when we visited the Yadavs back at home they were all noticeably uplifted. The children giggled and played happily together, and Chandrakala grasped our hands in gratitude. “We all are very happy,” she exclaimed. “Now Muskan can read and write. Her life is now on track. Now she can have a bright future.”
But it’s Sanjesh who had the most visible transformation. Before Muskan’s surgery, he was extremely sad and walked around the hospital with his head bent. But now he holds his head high and told us he’s hopeful for the future of all his daughters.
Since leaving the Yadavs, we’ve heard the fantastic news that the entire family, bar Chandrakala, have now had cataract surgery to improve their vision. Sanjesh tells us: “I am happy that my cataracts have been removed and my children are able to see. They are also regularly attending school.”
This family’s unique story was discovered and solved thanks to supporters like you. Without you, none of the work we do would be possible.
Dr Moira Chinthambi received a Sightsavers scholarship to train as an ophthalmologist and now works on our inclusive eye health programme in Malawi.
Alinafe Zaina is studying clinical ophthalmology in Malawi with the help of a scholarship provided by Sightsavers’ inclusive eye health programme.
We’re working with partners in Cameroon and Senegal to ensure people with disabilities are able to take part in every stage of the political process.