If ever there were an urgent need for someone to have their sight restored, it must surely be Lahor Khan, who has diabetes.
The 60-year-old from Dhamrai, just south of Bangladesh's capital city, Dhaka, is a bus driver.
To Mr Khan’s horror, his vision began to go blurry when he was driving passengers along a busy highway.
He left his job, which sadly meant his son had to leave school and take up a job in a factory nearby to support the family.
Mr Khan’s world grew smaller as his independence decreased. Soon he needed to hold onto his wife’s arm to do simple things such as getting out of bed, and walking. She even had to help him eat.
Mr Khan was despondent. “I am feeling like I am on the brink of becoming blind. Every hope is shattered; I will never be able to see anything in my life.”
Although Mr Khan had suffered from diabetes for more than 20 years, he was too poor to afford insulin, which helps maintain the right blood sugar levels and stops the condition getting worse.
But thankfully last year, The Fred Hollows Foundation began an intensive social awareness campaign in Dhaka and its surrounding district, aimed at helping people such as Mr Lahor.
The following sign was put up on billboards, rickshaw tins and in shop windows.“If you have diabetes, then don’t delay: have your eyes examined and see this beautiful world.”
Prompted by this, Mr Khan went to the Bangladesh Institute of Research and Rehabilitation in Diabetes, Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders (BIRDEM) in Dhaka to see an ophthalmologist. A neighbour who had also had laser surgery assured him there was nothing to be afraid of.
Mr Lahor was given laser treatment using equipment donated by The Fred Hollows Foundation. The Foundation has also helped train many ophthalmologists.
Now Mr Khan can recognise the person standing in front of him, and dress himself. He can’t work, but he doesn’t feel as much of a burden on his family. He’s thrilled, he says, to be able to see this beautiful world again.
More than 1.5 million people are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy
Professor Hazrat Ali, from the Department of Ophthalmology at BIRDEM said an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise are risk factors.
“It is also a major issue that the treatment for diabetes and diabetic retinopathy is expensive for most patients,” he said.
“Patients living under the poverty line, most of the times cannot afford it.”
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