photo of Thangapandi
Photo: © 2013 Toni Cervantes


Global partner cornea recipient

Age: 27
Location: Madurai, Tamil Nadu (India)
Pre-Surgical Diagnosis: Macular Dystrophy
Surgery Type: PKP
Surgeon: Dr. Jeena Mascarenhas
Eye Bank: Rotary Aravind International Eye Bank

There was a time when Thangapandi and his wife contemplated suicide. The shame of living with blindness was too much to bear.

As a youth, Thangapandi was plagued with diminishing vision but had just enough sight to trick others into believing it was normal. His fear of being ostracized for his disability was a common one in his rural village. As it was, he was already motherless, his father had left the family for another woman and his school mates taunted him for his inability see the blackboard.

Thangapandi dropped out of school at 10 and, along with his grandmother, moved to an industrial town so he could find work in construction. Soon, his grandmother succeeded in negotiating a marriage deal with a local girl. At the age of 24, Thangapandi married without disclosing the full extent of his looming blindness to his bride or her family. For her sake, he did mention he had a “little” problem but that it would be cured. However, when he could no longer recognize faces, the ruse was up. By this time his wife was five months pregnant. Who would take care of her and the baby? How would they tell her parents? He and his wife made a pact: Thangapandi would visit the hospital in Madurai. If the doctors there could not help him, they vowed to poison themselves as well as the life of their unborn child.

On the day the bandages were first removed, he saw the face of his wife. He saw the face of his doctor. He saw how black the color black is. He saw how red the color red is. He kept the bandages on for a week, and within a month he could see clearly again.

The gratitude he feels for his cornea donor is boundless. “I do not know your name. If I did, I would ask you for a photo to put in my house so I can worship it. Because of you, I can see my wife, I can see my son. I can see my grandmother who raised me from a child. You are not dead. You are in me.”