The Story of Vijayadurga
Vijayadurga, a mother of two and a school teacher by profession, led a very active life at one point, catering to the needs of her husband and daughter - making breakfast, packing lunch, getting her daughter ready for school and then carrying on with the remaining household chores. Vijayadurga started having trouble with her vision at the age of twenty-six and gradually started losing her vision due to an eye condition “Retinitis Pigmentosa” and had to quit her teaching profession as she was not able to manage them any more. For a person who is used to being very active this sudden change in daily schedule due to vision problem was depressing. Vijayadurga’s husband, a software engineer brought her to the tertiary Centre in Hyderabad. Here, at the centre after preliminary investigations, doctors confirmed the diagnosis that neither spectacles nor intensive treatment, nor surgery could reverse symptoms. Her visual acuity was worse than 20/600, which means Vijayadurga had severe visual impairment and the residual vision is useful only for functional mobility during day light. She cannot rely on print anymore. The good news was that she was counseled by the rehabilitation counselors and was given a new hope to enhance her quality of life through rehabilitation intervention. The rehabilitation centre offered her various skills training and supportive services for independent living and Vijayadurga has been using all of them for the last 6 years.
This is the advantage of having rehabilitation services within the hospital itself. The patient is able to get immediate psychological support through counseling and able to access the various rehabilitation skills training without wasting their time or having to travel elsewhere. Hence, rehabilitation services should be part of every eye hospital where patients with low vision or blindness seek care. However, LVPEI had built these services in its mission statement right from its inception about 25 years ago.
Setting a patient back on the road to mainstream living is a sustained task that requires patience, fortitude and unending optimism. The first step is direct interaction which starts with assessment of vision, then identifying the needs of the person and prioritizing them. This is important because these needs vary for different people.
Over the last 25 years, LVPEI has successfully rehabilitated over one lakh visually impaired clients with low vision and blindness across all age groups and strata of the society. Vijayadurga was one of the many who were fortunate to be treated at this centre, which is the first of its kind in the country to offer comprehensive rehabilitation services within an eye hospital. It is also the first to make available state- of- the- art low vision devices and training programs combined with specially trained professionals. After the initial counseling sessions with the team, Vijayadurga’s family decided to go in for training in mobility, home management skills, money identification & management, computer skills, Braille skills and Daily Living Skills and also benefitted from our digital audio books services. She is a regular participant of all workshops organized at the centre on advocacy, communication skills, personality development etc. We made home visits and assisted her in redesigning her kitchen for safe use. Vijayadurga never dreamt of leading a close to normal life when she started facing blurred vision problem. Today, she helps her children with their studies by taking lessons orally and manages all household chores independently. She is actively looking out to secure a job and get back to normal routine.
Low vision is 4 times more common than blindness, a majority of the visually impaired have remaining vision that can be put to maximum use. Setting a patient back on the road to mainstream living is a sustained task that requires patience, fortitude and unending optimism. The first step is direct interaction which starts with assessment of vision, then identifying the needs of the person and prioritizing them. This is important because these needs vary for different people. Together, the 2 Vision Rehabilitation Centres at L V Prasad Eye Institute - the Meera and L B Deshpande Centre for Sight Enhancement and Dr. P R K Prasad Centre for Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired provide comprehensive low vision rehabilitation services. The training is available not only to patients who visit the Centre but also to those with low vision and blindness in the community who cannot access the services through community-based rehabilitation services. Keeping LVPEI’s philosophy in mind, we extend the rehabilitation services to the community, coordinating with the local people and pooling in local resources. From our experience, local community plays a big part in the smooth delivery of our services.
Given that LVPEI has a physical presence in 107 locations across AP and that people in rural areas tend to have a higher prevalence of low vision and blindness, we aim to expand the low vision rehabilitation services across the LVPEI network so as to be able to cover the remotest regions of the state. By providing these services we intend to impact the lives of all those with low vision and blindness by improving their quality of life.