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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 November 2005, 09:54 GMT
Giving a boy sight for the first time
By Fergus Walsh
BBC Medical Correspondent

Al-Amin with his mother minutes after his bandage is taken off following the operation
Al-Amin minutes after his bandage was taken off
Al-Amin is 10, and lives in a tiny village in Bangladesh.

He has been blind since birth.

We travelled several hours out of Dhaka with a team from the British-based charity Sight Savers International to collect Al-Amin and take him to an eye hospital in the capital.

His sight should be restored with an operation that takes only 15 minutes.

Like more than 10,000 children in Bangladesh Al-Amin is cataract blind.

The lens of each eye should be clear, but Al-Amin's are covered with a milky fibrous tissue through which barely any light can penetrate.

He can see nothing beyond a few inches from his face.

It means that the 10-year-old needs help to get around the village and does not attend school.

Check-up

A final check up confirms that Al-Amin is a good candidate for cataract surgery.

First his right eye will be operated on, then a month later, the left.

Al-Amin in his village before surgery.  He fails the sight test being unable to see more than a few inches beyond his face
Al-Amin fails his sight test

Going to Dhaka was a big trip for the little boy. His village has no electricity and it was his first time in a car.

At the hospital he joined other blind children on the ward whose surgery is being paid for by Sight Savers.

In all they will fund 10,000 cataract operations in Bangladesh over the next four years.

We filmed Al-Amin having surgery. It is precise but routine.

A surgeon sucks out the fibrous tissue and inserts a synthetic clear lens.

The day after surgery Al-Amin waited patiently for the bandage to come off.

The surgeon leant over and asked him: "What can you see?".

"Camera!" he responded.

Al-Amin was focussed on our TV camera several feet away.

Saw his mother

He could see. Best of all, he could see his mother's face for the first time.

Helena told us she was excited about sending her son to school.

"Doctor! I want to be a doctor" said the excited 10-year-old.

Al-Amin having a final check-up before surgery - the cataract in his eye is just visible
Al-Amin having a final check-up before surgery

The following day we travelled with the family back to their village.

The final mile was on foot, past banana trees and rice fields.

All the children came out to meet them as they walked slowly together amid the sweltering heat.

In the village Al-Amin let go of his mother's hand for the first time and walked straight to his father; it was his first taste of independence.

Al-Amin's sight will never be perfect. For that to have been achieved he should have had surgery by the age of six.

The reason? The brain needs to learn how to see and after the age of seven it begins to lose this ability.

He'll probably need glasses. Even so, his vision will be good enough to transform his life.

Dr Alamgir Hossain, of Sight Savers International, said: "Before the surgery these children need help with everything and are a burden on their families.

"The surgery changes everything. Their sight gradually improves over a period of weeks after the operation.

"And then they are free to read, to go to school and can think about their future."


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