Mumbai: Govandi constable's got his eyes on you

A Govandi constable juggles a high-stress job with a mission to inspire Indians — including fellow policemen — to turn eye donors

On April 10, 2008, when constable Ravindra Patil, 42, held his first eye donation camp in Panvel, he didn’t imagine that he would go on to motivate 17,000 people to pledge their eyes. This number covers several members of the police force including then Shrikant Pathak DCP (Crime) in Pune, Prashant More [Assistant Police Inspector, CP office, Crawford Market], Shakru Rathod [Head Constable, Mahim Police Station] and 610 women constables from Khandala.

“In 2008, I accompanied my father to Rajawadi Hospital in Ghatkopar. While there, I met a child who was waiting for a cornea transplant,” recalls Patil, who is attached to Govandi police station. He learnt that the girl was one among 30 lakh patients awaiting the procedure in India. Of these, 60 per cent are children. The cornea is a clear tissue that covers the front of the eye. Disease or injury can cloud it, leading to vision impairment, and sometimes, complete loss of eyesight.

“On an average, 20 bodies are brought at the city’s government hospitals, like KEM and Rajawadi, every day. Imagine the potential,” says the Panvel resident.

Patil now juggles his day job with this campaign. He holds at least one camp every month, which starts with an 80-minute lecture. This Valentine’s Day, 78 families from a residential complex in Kamothe, Panvel, signed the pledge. “I hold camps on days when I am off from work. Else, I apply for leave,” he says.

“Initially, my parents were hesitant when I told them I was going to be a donor. Indians are superstitious. We worry that if we give away our eyes, we will be born blind in our next birth,” he says. It’s trashing myths then, that forms a chunk of his lecture. “I am often asked if donation is imperative while the person is still alive. How are they to be sure that their eyes will be used for a noble cause.”

Patil realised it would help if he collated the FAQs into a pamphlet, with corresponding answers. This flier is now his weapon at camps. He pitches in from his pocket to print them. “Laxmi Eye Bank in Navi Mumbai provides me with a doctor at the camps. They also help with expert guidance in preparing brochures and certificates,” he says.

Patil’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Additional DGP (Training), K Venkateshan, recently sent him a congratulatory note. “I hope to one day, convince the entire police force in Maharashtra to become donors,” he smiles.

Busting myths
>> Eye donation does not cause disfigurement of the face.
>> Eyes can only be pledged by a person who is alive. They are donated in death.
>> All donor eyes are acceptable irrespective of the donor’s age, including eyes of premature/ still born babies and patients who have had eye surgeries.

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