The vision givers: Meet the eight Odisha women counselling families to donate deceased's eyes

Associated with Drusti Daan eye bank (located at LV Prasad Eye Institute in Bhubaneswar) that recently logged 10,000 cornea collections in the State, all of them maintain a close watch on deaths. 

Published: 09th January 2022 04:40 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th January 2022 03:37 PM   |  A+A-


For representational purposes

By Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR: Bhanupriya Mohanta’s day usually begins outside the post-mortem hall of Baripada hospital. Coaxing people, who lost their loved ones minutes back to donate their eyes can be unthinkable and an inappropriate proposition.

But, for 25-year-old Bhanupriya, a grief counsellor and an eye recovery technician, briefing grieving families about the importance of eye donation has been a daily ritual for the last two years.

In these years, she has been successful in collecting nearly 150 corneas from both Mayurbhanj and Balasore districts.

“I have been counselling people to donate eyes of their deceased family members since 2019 but I trained to harvest cornea from bodies only last year," says the eye donation counsellor of Baripada, who holds a degree in both social work and nursing. 

There are eight other women like her across the State who are counselling families to donate eyes of the deceased and have been successful to a large extent in bringing colours back into the lives of people who have been living in darkness.

Associated with Drusti Daan eye bank (located at LV Prasad Eye Institute in Bhubaneswar) that recently logged 10,000 cornea collections in the State, all of them maintain a close watch on deaths. 

Not just post-mortem halls, one can also find them outside wards and ICUs.

“Most of the corneas are generally collected from post-mortem halls because we get some time there to approach the next of kin and encourage them to make eye donation. In case of ward or ICU deaths, people are usually in a hurry to finish the formalities and take the body home for last rites," says 30-year-old Niharika Mohapatra, who has been a grief counsellor for the last 11 years. 

While she worked as a counsellor in Cuttack for eight years, Niharika shifted to Balangir three years back to work as both a counsellor and recovery technician. So far, Niharika has facilitated collection of nearly 1,000 corneas and in Balangir she has recovered 154 corneas. 

“There have been instances where bereaved families have even tried to attack us when we attempted to counsel them for eye donation. Many others get aggrieved and scream at us because they think it’s an unusual request. But we are used to all of this now and plan our counselling sessions accordingly," says 27-year-old Sumitra Rout, a grief counsellor-cum-recovery technician in Bhubaneswar since 2012.

A trained OT and cornea recovery technician, she collects at least 20 corneas every month with a majority from Capital Hospital. The Covid-19 pandemic had stalled eye donation and it revived only after the situation improved last year. But lack of awareness and people’s inhibitions about organ donation continue to be the biggest roadblocks.

And in some cases, even if people are educated they are not motivated enough to agree to the donation. 

“Awareness on eye donation is low even today. When we talk about eye donation to people, they usually think that we are going to remove eyes from the bodies. We have had a lot of people tell us that if the eyes are removed, the person will be born blind in the next birth. Such beliefs pose an obstacle in eye donation," says Jyotirmayee Mohanty, the eye bank manager.


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