For the four-month old yet-to-be-named baby girl, her right eye was literally popping out from birth, its sheer grotesqueness adding to her excruciating pain and her poor parents' unspeakable agony and tears.
A 'conventional eye transplant' which involves only the cornea of the eye from a donor would not have helped this baby girl of farm hands Kala and Govindarajan, from Mambakkam village in Tamil Nadu's Tiruvannamalai district, 225 km from Chennai.
But in an "out-of-the-box" surgery, the Dr. Agarwal's Eye Hospital here today declared that for the "first time in the world" their specialists' team has "successfully performed an "Anterior Segment eye (full front portion of the eye) transplantation".
"It has restored both the normal appearance and vision in the baby's right eye," an excited Prof. Amar Agarwal, heading the team and the Hospital's Joint Managing Director, disclosed at a press conference here this evening, as myriad media flashbulbs focused on the much relieved mother with the cured baby in arms.
In a surgical procedure "never performed anywhere in the world so far, we have en bloc transplanted the entire cornea, the sclera, the iris, the pupil and the lens," for this four-month old baby girl, Prof. Agarwal said. This "new surgical concept" came from his teammate and top consultant Dr. Soosan Jacob, and implemented by the team including Dr. Gaurav Prakash, a product of AIIMS, Delhi, and Dr. Divya Ashok Kumar.
The surgery performed on Feb 1 has two parts, said Prof. Agarwal. The biological part forming the cornea and sclera, obtained from the eyes donated by a 50-year-old man who died in Chennai recently, was "glued" to the "prosthetic" (synthetic) part comprising an artificial iris, pupil and an intraocular lens.
This whole set- comprising the front portion of the human eye- was grafted on to the baby after cutting open her "protruding eye" in an extremely delicate five-hour complex surgery, he said. The lens and the surrounding tissues inside the girl's diseased eye were so bad that just cornea transplantation would not have helped her, he stressed, showing stunning footages from the video-graphed surgical procedure to the media.
"We did not know what to do with her; my girl has not slept for the last four months, she was wincing with eye pain and crying all the time. On learning about Dr. Agarwal's Eye Hospital's branch in Vellore near our village, we first took her there," said Mrs. Kala. Doctors there then referred the girl to the main hospital in Chennai, a tertiary eye care hospital founded by 'Padma Bhushan', Dr. J. Agarwal in 1957.
"You are like God to us by giving vision to my child; you must name my baby also," pleaded Kala in an emotion-chocked voice. Touched by her gesture, Prof. Agarwal said he would name the baby in a day or two before she is discharged.
However, a close "post-operative follow-up" will be there for the girl child in the next four months. At least for six hours a day, the left eye of the girl child will be patched up, to "let her use the new right eye more and more," he said, adding, since the girl's parents are daily wage earners, "we have done this surgery totally free". In the normal circumstances, such a surgical procedure would cost Rs.25, 000.
The phenomenon of the whole eye bulging out is not always caused by genetic factors, though in this case it was so, Prof. Agarwal explained. Widespread vitamin-A deficiency and inadequate nutrition in India's rural areas is one of the major causes for this grotesquely protruding eye disease, he added.