Patient: Tsering Gyatso
Diagnosis: dry eye
Sight Restored: 2013
Julley* from the north India Himalayan region of Ladakh!
My name is Tsering Gyatso. I am an officer in the security police force of Ladakh, located in the high Himalayan region of North India, on the border of Tibet and Pakistan. I have been posted in Leh since 2007, where I serve at the military airport, the base of flight operations for not only the India air force, but also the civilian population. Because of the high security level of this border region and that Ladakh is cut off from the rest of India during the winter, the airport is a vital facility and I take my duties very seriously.
In 1995 I had a minor eye irritation which I thought was caused by the constant blowing of dust and the intense UV rays of the bright mountain sunlight. I went to a chemist in the local marketplace and the (untrained) person there recommended an injection for the swelling in my eyes. I purchased the medication and took it to the small hospital where a nurse gave me the injection. Within a few hours of receiving that injection, I had a serious allergic reaction to the medication. Thus began a 20 year struggle with severe eye damage.
Those 20 years have been filled with the greatest joys, as well as the never ending torment that my eye condition has caused me and those who depend on me for support and protection. I was married in 2006 to a fellow police officer and three years later we had a beautiful son, but my dry eye syndrome compromised every personal and professional experience and obligation that I had. I sought treatment from the army hospital in Ladakh and in over 10 different medical facilities in Delhi and other large centers in India. The surgeries and medications only provided temporary relief and the financial drain and disappointments hurt me deeply; they also put an emotional and practical strain on my family. My need for constant self-medication also placed my ability to perform my duties as a police officer in jeopardy.
The light at the end of this dark tunnel came in 2013 when Bill Kite, who operates a humanitarian medical project in Ladakh, contacted the LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI) in Hyderabad on my behalf. I had heard of the name Dr. Virender Sangwan (pictured at left with Gyatso) at LVPEI, a talented and respected cornea specialist. But I was afraid to hope and had mixed feelings when Bill informed me that Dr. Sangwan had arranged for an appointment to examine me at LVPEI.
Arriving at the hospital, I knew immediately that this was a place of healing. Dr. Sangwan explained that he would have to surgically repair some of the damage and afterwards I would start PROSE treatment. I had no idea what PROSE was, but I trusted Dr. Sangwan's advice unconditionally. The next day Dr. Sangwan performed surgery on one eye. While my eye healed, I went on a pilgrimage to several Tibetan Buddhist monasteries to meditate and pray for Dr. Sangwan and his team as well as prepare myself for yet another disappointment.
When I returned I was assigned to the PROSE team at LVPEI. I still had no idea what the treatment required, but the technicians were all so competent, kind and compassionate that I trusted them. When the technician inserted the PROSE device, it felt like the fire that had been burning in my eye for 20 years had finally, mercifully gone out. The technician advised me to go for a walk with the PROSE device in place, and while walking I realized that I could see clearly and without pain. I felt a great weight release its grip on my heart and mind, and I filled that space with thoughts of my young son and the stunning beauty of my homeland that I would now be able to see clearly.
Dr. Sangwan explained that the only place in the world that could supply this device is Boston Foundation for Sight in the USA. He showed me where Boston was on the map of the world and told me that everyone involved with this miraculous device was motivated by creating for patients a second chance at life. When I inserted my new prosthetic device into my left eye, I not only once again felt the soothing relief the hydration offered, but also the wonderful improvement to my eyesight that the optical correction provided.
Dr. Sangwan had advised that we would wait to place the PROSE device on the surgically repaired right eye in order to allow it to completely heal, so I returned home to Ladakh with "the glass half full" but a heart filled with gratitude and relief. When I landed back in Ladakh I saw the vast Himalayas for the first time in 20 years in sharp and pain free splendor and when my son, Jigmet Norboo (pictured at right with Gyatso), ran toward me, I realized I had never seen him clearly before in my life.
The second PROSE device was sent by Boston Foundation for Sight about one month later. By then I had mastered the application and removal techniques and my vision and life were restored.
In Buddhist practice, we have a morning ritual called Yongchap where we mindfully fill seven small cups of water as an offering to the teachings of the Buddha. We are instructed to embrace the moment of mindful simplicity of filling up a small container of water to hear the blessings of our life and dedicate our hearts to compassion for all living things. I have extended this ritual to include the cleaning and application of my PROSE devices. I pour the cleaning solution gently over the device while feeling heart filling gratitude for the doctors at LVPEI who helped heal my eyes and for this wonderful treatment that has quite literally given me my life back.
I send blessings and gratitude to my brothers and sisters at Boston Foundation for Sight for their brilliance in building this bridge out of the darkness and back toward the light for wounded souls like me. May the long time sun shine upon you all.
* “Julley” is a word in Ladakhi, the predominant language in the Leh district of Ladakh, India, with many meanings. It can mean hello, goodbye, I'm sorry, and thank you; however, literally it means "bless the divine within everything.”