KOCHI: A 21-year-old patient from Yemen, who lost both his hands and eyesight in a landmine blast in the war-torn West Asian country, has regained vision in one eye after successfully undergoing a corneal transplant at a city hospital here.
Islam Hussein, the third of six children of a 45-year-old school teacher, hails from a village near Taiz, an ancient city among the steep cliffs of central Yemen. Taiz, the birthplace of Yemen's Arab Spring in 2011, is a war-torn region where firefights between rival militias are a daily occurrence and the landscape is littered with landmines and unexploded bombs.
The surgery, held at the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS), involved complete reconstruction of the left eye and was conducted by a team of eye surgeons from the hospital led by Dr. Anil Radhakrishnan, consultant (cornea & refractive surgery) and Dr. Gopal S Pillai, professor, HOD, Department of Ophthalmology.
The doctors at AIMS has now put him on the priority list for hand transplants after Islam expressed interest to go for the hand transplants.
In September 2017, Islam, a student of Class 11, was walking on a street near his home when he accidentally stepped on a mine laid by the warring groups in the area. It exploded, severely injuring his hands and legs, disfiguring his face and mangling his eyes. Though he was rushed to a hospital Hussein lost vision in both the eyes.
Doctors said Islam's legs had to be amputated, but his father refused to give up and moved him to a hospital in Egypt, where both his hands had to be amputated below the elbow due to infection. Doctors were not capable of helping him further, however. One of Islam's friends recommended treatment in India, and the patient and his family arrived by AIMS in December 2017, after undergoing plastic surgery on his foot in Jaipur.
Due to medical reasons, the hand transplant team at AIMS felt that the hand transplant for Islam would be more feasible after he regained his vision, said Dr. Radhakrishnan. "Islam's right eye was beyond recovery as the structure behind the lens was badly damaged and the eye had shrunk in size. We, therefore, focused on the left eye. We reconstructed the shattered eye structures and, conducted corneal transplant and reconstructed the eye. We were not sure if it would work, as there was a membrane in front of the retina," he said.
Dr. Radhakrishnan said a day later when Islam opened his eye he could clearly see his mother in front of him. "He has regained 90 per cent of vision in his left eye and is seeing perfectly with the help of glasses. He has also begun to walk around without any assistance," he said.
Dr. Pillai, HOD, Department of Ophthalmology, AIMS, said when Islam came to AIMS, his face which used to be handsome before was completely burnt and disfigured from the blast. "The massive blunt injury damaged his eyes as if hit by a hammer. Now that Islam can see with his eye, he wants to go for a hand transplant so that he can lead a normal life. We have put him on the priority list for hand transplants," he said.