Aarti was born a healthy child with full sight. She grew up with five siblings in the village of Nagla Bale in India’s state of Uttar Pradesh, southeast of the capital of New Delhi. Her older brothers work as autorickshaw drivers, driving people and goods across the area to support themselves and earn money for the rest of their family. Her father works intermittently as a day laborer on area farms and brings in a little more than the equivalent of $1,000 per year.
As the only daughter, she was supposed to be the most valuable child, a blessing for her large family.
One day as a toddler, Aarti was playing in the family’s small home. In most cases, it would have been a day like any other. But as she ran across the room, she fell onto a pile of sharp straw sticks meant for repairs on their thatched roof. One stick pierced her jaw, going through the side of her head and neck. Her mother removed what she could of the stick, but part broke off and remained. Gradually, she developed a serious infection.
At a nearby hospital, doctors had to perform a complicated surgery to remove what remained of the stick and treat the wound, opening up the side of her head, as her mother described the procedure. The surgery succeeded in treating the wound, but an optic nerve was injured in the process, rendering Aarti’s right eye permanently blind. With her left eye still functioning, Aarti was able to study through the 5th grade in school. She was able to live a relatively normal life along with other children her age.
Eye problems soon returned, though, and her left eye began to water regularly and turn red. Gradually, vision in her remaining eye declined.
"She’s the only daughter in the house. I tried everything, we didn’t give up."
Aarti and her mother wait outside the operating room in Chitrakoot, India.
Aarti’s family visited every hospital and clinic they could find in the area, spending over a year’s income on medical bills and doctor appointments with the hope that at least one of her eyes could be healed. For several years, they found nothing. Doctor after doctor told them that Aarti would be blind for life. The case was simply too complicated. Medical bills too became a concern. Finally, one hospital could identify the cause - cataract.
Aarti’s father carries her to the patient wards following a successful surgery on her left eye.
Sri Sadhguru Seva Sang Trust, in Chitrakoot, India, was two days’ journey from their own village. Traveling by public transit and bus, Aarti’s mother and father took her to the facility and hospital known for its cataract surgical care. Here medical costs were not an issue because the hospital provided the same high quality care to paying patients as those who could not afford to pay the full cost.
"For a mother, a child is very important. I went to many places looking for a cure. This is where we finally found respect."
Following a pre-op test of young Aarti’s eyes, Dr. Amit Yadav at SSSST was able to remove the girl’s cataract and place a new lens in her left eye. Aarti recovered in the general hospital’s ICU and recovery facility after her surgery under the watch of the Trust’s nurses. She spent the night in the patient wards with her family.
Aarti and her father wait in the Children’s Eye Care Center in Chitrakoot, India.
Now 13, Aarti can see again. Her mother hopes she can study at least through the 8th grade to extend her education and give her more independence as she becomes an adult. The surgery supported by the HelpMeSee campaign will give her the opportunity of a normal life.