Driven to suicide by blindness: How a woman finds a second chance at sight and life
Losing one’s sight is terrifying and daunting. It leaves the visually impaired person reliant on those around them to assist them in navigating their way through the world. Without the help and generosity of others, it can lead to a loss of hope and tragically sometimes life.
55-year-old Chyo Maya Praja lives high up in the very remote village of Raksirang Rual Municipality in Nepal. The village is so remote that there are no roads or tracks to travel there. She lives with her daughter and they both would do odd jobs to earn a small living until three years ago when Chyo Maya’s vision began to deteriorate.
Frustrated with her vision loss and perceiving herself as a burden for her young daughter, Chyo would repeatedly request for her daughter to throw her off a cliff and end her misery once and for all. However, the daughter did not oblige but could not bear seeing her mother in such despair.
Villagers around them were sympathetic, but there was nothing they could do – as after all, everyone in the area was attempting to navigate through a life of hardships due to the extreme poverty the population faces. For Chyo Maya and her daughter, their financial problems were extreme as they were exacerbated by needless blindness.
One day, Chyo Maya decided to take matters into her own hands. Navigating through the difficult terrain, she made her way to the river in an attempt to drown herself. Some of the villagers saw this tragic event and came to her rescue.
A neighbour of Chyo Maya, who had moved downhill a few years ago, was aware of the lady’s plight and was determined to help her. Once she heard of an upcoming Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation screening camp coming to her village, she wasted no time.
She immediately contacted the family and asked them to come down to her village. When her daughter expressed concerns about a lack of a place stay and a very little amount of money for food, the neighbour was kind enough to offer her own place and kitchen for the entirety of her stay. On top of this generosity, the cost of Chyo Maya’s surgery was to be taken care of by the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation.
Chyo Maya’s surgery was performed on 13th September, 2022 by Dr Sanduk Ruit, co-founder of Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation, who has helped restore sight to over 130,000 people across a lifetime dedicated to curing needless blindness in the developing world.
The next day, after Chyo Maya’s patches were removed by Dr Ruit, she was extremely happy to be seeing again. She thanked the doctor, hugged her daughter, and said she looked forward to living her life with renewed optimism. “You guys returned my eyesight. You guys are my god”, she would be heard saying before she left the hospital.
In Nepal, there are many people who tragically suffer from needless blindness. Dr Sunil Thakali, Chief Medical Director of the Hetauda Community Eye Centre, who parters with the Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation, believes that there are three reasons for the high number of visually impaired people in the area.
- A lack of accessibility. In many regions of Nepal, including where Chyo lives, there are no roads or tracks to enter or leave rural areas. This makes travelling to cities or hospitals a difficult endeavour.
- High rates of poverty. Many communities live on less than 1 USD per day, leaving very little money left over for healthcare treatments after the families meet their basic needs of food and water.
- A lack of awareness. Many communities have very little knowledge of eye care and due to a lack of understanding, believe that when sight is lost it is an inevitable loss.
The Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation, co-founded by Dr Ruit, the ‘God of Sight’, and Mr Tej Kohli, a philanthropist from the UK, have partnered to screen one million people and cure 300,000 – 500,000 by 2030 to help end poverty induced needless blindness, and to lift communities out of extreme poverty.
The Tej Kohli & Ruit Foundation is a restricted fund operating under the auspices of Prism The Gift Fund, registered UK charity number 1099682.