Rajiv Kale (18) spends a lot of time staring at the colourful wallpaper on his computer screen these days even though he is appearing for his Class 10 exams.
“I love seeing the colours. I can also see the little yellow light on the bottom panel of the monitor,” the Pune resident said.
Kale’s world had been completely dark for nine years. “I lost my vision when I was in Class 3,” he said. Kale’s eyesight has been partially restored, thanks to his tooth and a rare procedure.
A team led by Bombay Hospital’s cornea surgeon Dr Sonia Nankani extracted one of Kale’s canine teeth, fitted a prosthetic lens in it and implanted it in his left eye in a complex surgery called the Modified Osteo-Odonto Keratoprosthesis (MOOKP) on December 11.
A few days later, Kale could see objects within a distance of two metres. Kale is one of the 10 visually impaired patients who have voluntarily undergone the unique surgery since Bombay Hospital’s Taparia Institute of Opthalmology started offering it in October 2007.
He and five other patients are now seeing the world through their teeth. Others lost their vision again 12 to 18 months after the surgery. “We have had 55 to 60 per cent success. Four patients developed complications after the surgery and lost their sight,” said Dr Nankani.
She added that that MOOKP is a “last resort” for those with severly damaged corneas and those who have either undergone multiple unsuccessful corneal transplants or are not eligible for it. Kale and most of the other patients, who underwent the surgery, suffer from Steven Johnson Syndrome, a skin disease that often leads to blindness.
These patients cannot undergo a cornea transplant because of extreme dryness of the eye. Dr Nankani and her colleagues, Professor A.P. Chitre, Dr Meena Vora and Dr Harish Pathak, are constantly improvising the technique to achieve better results.
“We are also taking into consideration the psychological trauma of a patient after losing vision a second time.”
JJ Hospital dean and senior eye surgeon Dr T.P. Lahane said patients who opt for the surgery know they have nothing to lose. “It is the only ray of hope for some blind patients. If it is successful, countless patients will be able to see again,” he said.
The Latur-based Chitles are glad they brought 22-year-old Geeta to Mumbai for the surgery last year. “She can’t see well even now but she is less dependent and can do household chores,” said her brother.
(Names of patients have been changed to protect identity)