32-hour-old is youngest eye donor

Sep 22, 2011, 08:10 IST | Sapna Desai

Say Kandivli couple Hetal and Dhimant Shah, content that their newborn, who died within 32 hours of her birth, will live on even in death

Say Kandivli couple Hetal and Dhimant Shah, content that their newborn, who died within 32 hours of her birth, will live on even in death
When their newborn daughter met an untimely death a mere 32 hours after seeing light of day, bereaved Kandivli couple Hetal and Dhimant Shah took a pledge -- they would take all their sorrow and turn it into the most precious gift: the gift of vision. They decided that their beloved infant would live on in the eyes of others, who would think of her every time they enjoyed the wondrous beauties of the world. With no hesitation in their minds, the couple decided to donate their infant's eyes, making her the youngest ever eye donor in the city, and perhaps in the world.

Proud family: Dhimant Shah with his parents Vijay and Hansa.

The infant's death came as a big blow to the Shah family, who had been waiting with bated breath for her birth. The family's euphoria, however, was cruelly nipped in the bud, when she was diagnosed with a heart ailment within hours of her birth.

"She had to be put on ventilator support immediately, as her condition was critical," said Dr Dilip Raichura of the Raichura maternity hospital in Kandivli.

When the family learnt that their newborn might be snatched from them soon, they decided to preserve and perpetuate at least one part of their bundle of joy. "My father has always encouraged and supported eye donation. When my uncle Ramesh passed away, we had also donated his eyes. So we decided that my daughter's eyes too would be donated. She would live on, not only in our memory, but in the eyes of others," said the donor's father Dhimant, who works as a chartered accountant with a private firm.

The donor's mother Hetal Shah (24) said, "My daughter has brought back the gleam of recognition in the eyes of no less than six people. Perhaps she was sent to this world to serve this very purpose. God sent her here to perform thus selfless act. She has lived for only 32 hours, but in the short life span, she has made me proud."

According to Raichura, who runs the Netradan Jagruti Centre in Kandivli, the deceased newborn is perhaps the youngest eye donor in the country. "The parents have done something truly admirable. Other parents should take inspiration from them and start pledging their eyes, and instructing their kids to do the same. A single cornea can give the blessing of eyesight to three individuals. Thus the infant's eyes will illuminate the lives of six recipients," he said.

In the past few years, Raichura has encouraged over 400 people to donate their eyes. "In the city of Navsari in Gujarat, people have made the greatest number of eye donations in the nation," said Raichura.

Dhimant's father Vijay, who is actively involved in the eye donation awareness drive spearheaded by Raichura, said, "Superstitions and religious beliefs hold back people from donating eyes. But we firmly believe that by granting vision to others, she is doing work for the welfare of others, even in death."

Renowned ophthalmologist Dr T P Lahane, head of the ophthalmology department at JJ hospital, said, "She is the youngest donor; before this, I had heard of a nine-month-old child's eyes being donated. It is a beautiful, selfless gesture on the part of the family members. Such acts should be encouraged."

First couple donate eyes
On September 8 this year, on the occasion of National Eye Donation Day, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur took a pledge to donate their eyes. The couple said in a joint statement: "We are aware that there are innumerable cornea-blind patients in our country, for whom the gift of sight will be a priceless one. We hope that people across the country will rise to the occasion and support the National Programme for Control of Blindness and help their fellow brethren."

They also lauded the National Eye Bank and corneal transplantation teams across the country for their efforts to bring back the gleam of vision in the eyes of those in need.

284 mn
The total number of visually impaired people in the world, according to the World Health Organisation. 

4.6 mn
The number of sightless people in India

The world's total blind population are Indian

39 mn
The number of blind people in the world

245 mn
The number of people afflicted with low vision

The BSNL/MTNL toll-free nation-wide number you can call to be connected to the nearest eye bank.

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