Little Mashtama, from Quetta, was hardly 5 when her parents realized that she had problems with her vision. Matters took a turn for the worse when white spots appeared on her cornea and her eyes started looking opaque.
Her father, a poor farmer, took her to an ophthalmologist who diagnosed that Mashtama suffered from corneal opacity and the only possible cure was corneal transplants. The doctor said that not only would this surgery be completely unaffordable for the farmer, it was not available in Quetta and in any case, procuring a cornea could take years – if there was any possibility at all.
Disheartened by the bluntness of the doctor, Mashtama’s parents slowly became resigned to their daughter’s fate. Mashtama was not sent to school. She became withdrawn and avoided playing with other children. She became one of Pakistan’s 1.6 million blind people who can be cured – if they could afford the treatment.
Years passed. Mashtama spoke very little and felt rejected even by her own siblings. For her parents, who adored her, she nevertheless became a lifelong responsibility.
Then, when Mashtama was eight, her father’s cousin visited from Karachi. As a taxi driver in a big city, his work took him to different places. He remembered having once taken a passenger to a free eye care hospital for the poor – LRBT Korangi. More importantly, he also recalled being told by the passenger that there was an LRBT hospital in Quetta as well.
This was all Mashtama’s father needed to know. Together with his cousin, they located LRBT Quetta where they took Mashtama for her preliminary checkup. She was referred to LRBT Korangi, in Karachi, where, after a series of tests, she was placed on the waiting list for corneal transplants.
Sadly, hardly any corneas are donated in Pakistan. They have to be imported and paid for. Her family, indeed the village, prayed that one day, corneas would be available for her. At length, a call came from LRBT Karachi that Mashtama should be brought over immediately and that, if her health permitted, she would receive a corneal transplant. All went well, and Mashtama can now see.
Mashtama loves to look at herself in the mirror. The highlight of her day is when she is able to play with her brothers and sisters. After her operation, she wondered what it would feel like to attend school. “I don’t remember going to school”, she said. “I don’t know how well I will do – but at least I can try now!’
Her parents are extremely thankful to our sister charity in Pakistan, LRBT, for restoring the sight of their eldest child for whom the future now looks rosy. If you would like to help children like Mashtana, through GLT, please do donate what you can today.