As that ten year old kid walked in to the low vision clinic with the attendant, it was just another day in that busy tertiary eye hospital. I was pre-occupied with the forthcoming class schedule for the students, but as that kid walked in, I turned my attention and asked the attendant what could I do for them. It was close to 6pm in the evening and the hospital staff had started leaving for the day as the last shift was in progress. The attendant told me that they had an appointment at 11 am in the morning, but could not make it due to some domestic issues. They also told me that they were from a remote village in Bihar and that the patient’s parents have recently expired in a political communal clash in their native village. The attendant was a social worker from a NGO in the state of Bihar, he requested if I could perform the Low Vision assessment for that child at that time as they had to get back to Bihar the same day night train as there were no resources for them to afford a stay at the city of Kolkata. It was close to the end of my day and I had enormous task cut out in finalizing the class schedule for the students, but all that looked secondary in front of that patients need at that moment. Something told me from within, to go ahead with the Low Vision examination.
The patient was diagnosed with Primary Optic Atrophy and was referred for Low vision Clinic for further management. The unaided vision in right and left eye were 6/36 and 6/60 respectively and there was no significant refractive error. The right eye was the dominant eye and after a detailed low vision evaluation the vision improved to 6/6 partial in the right eye with 6x monocular telescope and the kid was pretty excited about the outcome. The near vision improved comfortably to N6 from N8 with a portable CCTV and the kid was motivated to use it for prolonged near work. Also a protective filter 450nm for safety eyewear with CR-39 for constant wear was recommended. The kid was also referred for visual rehab training for daily living skills and software training for academic accomplishment. In totality it was a thoroughly satisfying experience for both the sides.
All through the examination process the kid was very co-operative and silent, but just before leaving the examination room, it asked me in Hindi, “Kya main andha hoon?” which loosely translated in English means, “Am I blind?” for which I said ,“No not at all”. I didn’t feel the need to lecture on the difference between blindness and impairment at that stage.
But even after the kid had left for a long time, those words lingered within me, “Am I Blind?”….I was just thinking might be many of us should ask this to ourselves, because there are innumerable instances in our practice, we encounter clinical moments wherein we realize that a low vision device and a scientific low vision assessment would give those patients another chance to take on this beautiful journey called LIFE. But we do miss those moments.
So next time we tend to overlook or miss those clinical moments we should ask ourselves “Kya main andha hoon?” which loosely translated in English means, “Am I blind?”