When someone dies in Madathattuvilai village in Kanyakumari district, the information is first conveyed to the church priest, following which the bell is rung to announce the death.
This is also a signal for the members of the youth group to meet the family and prepare them for eye donation of the deceased. While the family is busy informing their dear ones, a team from an eye hospital in Tirunelveli rushes to the village, carefully retrieves the eyes and replaces them with artificial eyes that look almost real.
As many as 229 people in the village have donated their eyes over the past 11 years turning Madathattuvilai into a trendsetter in creating awareness on eye donation.
But the journey was not easy, as people were unwilling to donate their eyes till 2007. The then youth group president of the church, F X Aruno Xavier, told TOI that most elders did not want to donate eyes “as they feared that they would not be able to see God in their afterlife”. It was against this backdrop that members of the group started actively donating blood from 2000.
Realising the importance of eye donation, youngsters from St Sebastian Church in the village started creating awareness about it in 2004. But it took three more years for them to convince the family of the first eye donor.
“About 1,500 enrolled, most of them were young,” he said, adding that they needed more elderly people to come forward. That was when parish priests Dominic M K Das and Sujan Kumar began talking about the importance of eye donation in their sermons.
In June 2007, T Mariya Sebastian, 52, a disabled person, became the first donor. The same year, eight other donations were recorded. Holy Family Federation, a church unit, now handles eye donation. “We were earlier donating eyes to a private hospital in Nagercoil.
But sometime ago their staff showed some reluctance. From then on, we started donating to a private hospital in Tirunelveli,” said V Auslin, 43, the federation’s secretary.
He said about 95% of those who die now donate their eyes. The village also boasts of the first whole-body donation in the district. Madathattuvilai has motivated and helped 17 people from neighbouring villages donate eyes.
Quite a few families in the village have more than one donor. The village’s youngest donors were sisters J Jeflin Infancy Cilicia and J Joleyn Steffi. They were 15 and 14 when they died in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
The girls, daughters of P Jeranus and J Shanthi Sheela, were healthy kids. The family was in Velankanni when tsunami struck on December 26, 2004. The girls started falling ill after that. Jeflin died in 2014 and Joleyn the next year. And the parents donated the eyes of the girls.
Article Credit : IndiaTimes