Jana Asenbrennerova (San Francisco State University)
Award of Excellence
International Picture Story
Since 1995, Bhola KC and Sankha Narayan Twyana have worked at the Eye Bank in Tilganga, running a program for eye donation that returns sight to the blind.
In the story presented here, Twayan, the eye bank manager, extracts the cornea from a corpse, a 7-year old girl who committed suicide by hanging, 18 hours prior to the procedure. Surrounded by family members and friends who are preparing her body for cremation at the Pashupatinath cremation site in Kathmandu, Twyana performs the procedure right next to the sacred Bagmati river and the cremation ghats.
Afterward, both corneas are examined by the surgeon at the hospital and assigned for surgery the next day. The eye bank manager finds a recipient on the waiting list, the chosen person is notified and has to arrive the following day for surgery. The procedure is free.
In this case, recipient Sabitri Lamichhane from a Chitwan region of Nepal, who has a severe eye infection, undergoes the cornea replacement procedure. She has her own cornea removed and replaced with the donated one. Her eye has been saved.
This eye donation program is still controversial in Nepal's society even though it has been heavily supported by politicians and celebrities who support the program by donating their own eyes upon death. Religion and culture of the society are often in the way of the procedures performed during an eye donation. However, the number of donors and successful surgeries is rising slightly every year. It is a question of awareness by educating the people to bringing more light on eye donation for the Nepalese, as they are the ones who benefit of from the program.
Sabitri Lamichhane had a severe eye infection, which worsened after she tried to heal it herself. Being at a high risk of loosing her eye, she was chosen by the Eye Bank among dozens of potential recipients from a waiting list at the Tilganga Eye Bank and underwent replacement of her cornea.
Sabitri Lamichhane sits in a waiting room at the Tilganga Eye Hospital, waiting for local eye anesthesiologist, followed up by eye surgery during which her own cornea is replaced with the donated one.
Sankha Narayan Twyana, the Eye Bank manager, performs a cornea extraction at the Pashupatinath cremation site in Kathmandu, where dead bodies are brought to be cremated along the sacred Bagmati river. This corpse is of a 7-year old girl who committed suicide the previous day. Her father decided to donate her eyes in the hope "to at least keep her sight alive." Family and friends gather around Twyana as he completes the procedure.
Sankha Narayan Twyana, the Eye Bank manager, places the extracted cornea into a preserving liquid. He will then rush back to the hospital to examine both corneas and to find a recipient who will come for the surgery the following day. Family and friends gather around Twyana as he completes the procedure. They start the cremation ceremonies shortly after his departure.
A photograph of Sabitri Lamichhane's eye during a cornea replacement surgery at the Tilganga Eye Hospital.
The following morning after the surgery, a nurse takes of the protective gauze from Sabitri Lamichhane's eye to check her vision and eye condition.
The day after surgery, Sabitri Lamichhane walks up the stairs at Tilganga Eye Hospital while she holds the hand of her husband, Om Lamichhane.
On the morning after her surgery, Sabitri Lamichhane returns for an eye check up. According to the surgeon, her eyes are going to take several months to heal completely. However, she is already able to see movement and recognize simple objects placed in front of her eyes.