As Pratik Patil babbles into the pay phone, there is little to indicate that the 27-month-old has been living out of hospitals for over a year. His opaque left eye tells a different story though – his impaired vision is obvious.
On Wednesday, doctors at Bombay Hospital in New Marine Lines announced that they were trying out a new stem cell therapy to restore vision to his affected eye. “In six months, we will know whether he can see or needs a corneal transplant,” said Dr Sonia Nankani of the hospital’s Taparia Opthalmology Centre.
Son of a farmer, Pratik’s saga began 18 months ago in Kagar village of Kolhapur. “We noticed his bloody stool and went to the taluka hospital,” said his father Arun on Wednesday. The child went to several hospitals before undergoing a four-month-long treatment for TB of the intestines at Nair Hospital, Mumbai Central.
“The condition returned and we rushed back to Mumbai,” Pratik’s father said. Though the toddler was soon cured of TB, his left eye suddenly appeared dry and developed a reddish rash. After making rounds of hospitals, they were referred to Dr Nankani, a cornea expert, on December 17 last year.
“I realised he had a stem cell deficiency,” said Dr Nankani. Limbal stem cells, which are present on the rim of the eyes, keep the eyes moist. An injury or as in Pratik’s case, malnutrition brought on by a disease, results in xerosis or dry eye. “As the cornea becomes dry, vision is affected,” she said.
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