Mumbai doctors cure blind baby, 200 others at free eye camp in Punjab

A five-member team including two eye surgeons organised the camp in Pathankot near Indo-Pak border; they operated 130 people including a 6-month-old girl suffering from cataract, helping them see clearly

A team of five people including two eye surgeons from the city ensured that a baby girl could see, at a free eye camp organised near the India-Pakistan border in Punjab. Not only were tens of other needy patients and servicemen treated at the camp, but the surgeons also shared their expertise with local doctors so they may utilise it in future.

Six-month-old Banshika Singh had acute cataract, and the doctors restored her vision using laser technology
Six-month-old Banshika Singh had acute cataract, and the doctors restored her vision using laser technology

The team included Dr Mustafa Parekh, head of ophthalmology at Lotus Eye Hospital in Juhu and Saifee Hospital in Marine Lines, and Dr Janak Shah, who runs a private practice. The three-day camp began on November 26 in Bungal, Pathankot, in a local hospital attached to a medical college, attracting more than 200 people, including the family of a blind six-month-old girl named Banshika Singh.

Dr Mustafa Parekh (extreme right) and Dr Janak Shah (second from left) with other members of the team that went to Pathankot
Dr Mustafa Parekh (extreme right) and Dr Janak Shah (second from left) with other members of the team that went to Pathankot

“Over two hundred patients, both young and old, registered for the three-day free eye camp, which was held in Chintpurni Medical College And Hospital. On November 26, which is my daughter Zahra’s birthday, I operated upon Banshika, who was born blind owing to acute cataract in both her eyes. We rectified her vision in a three-hour-long operation, using advanced laser technology,” said Dr Parekh.

Observing the proceedings were two local eye surgeons, Pallavi Singh and Santok Singh, who are now capable of performing the procedure independently. Students from the college also learnt the nuances of conducting operations at close quarters.

City trust chips in
Some 130 patients, including Banshika, underwent surgeries at the camp. According to Dr Shah, the total cost of the camp ran up to R15 lakh, which was borne by Health First, a trust of Mumbai-based doctors who
regularly contribute money for such causes.

“Captain Salaria, who runs a private security firm in Mumbai, flew us there in his personal plane and took care of all logistics. He even accompanied us on the trip,” Dr Shah told mid-day. Colonel (Rtd) Gagan Pathania, who has served in the armed forces for 32 years and even led the J&K Rifles regiment in Kandahar against numerous attacks, is the chief operating officer of Chintpurni Hospital.

He said the entire camp, including pre- and post-operation care, artificial lenses, and so on, was free of cost. “Doctors in the region had given up hope of restoring Banshika’s vision. The cost of just one operation at a bigger hospital was over Rs 1 lakh, a sum her parents could ill afford. They are from a far-flung village called Shahpur Kandi,” Col Pathania said.

The expertise gained in laser technology by local doctors and students will now be put to use to treat those in need, as well as people from the Association of Ex-Servicemen, of whom Pathankot has many. The doctor duo is now set to visit the tribal belt of Himachal Pradesh next week to hold another free eye camp there.

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