With Eyes Wide Open
At 76, veteran opthalmic surgeon Dr Kirit Mody just doesn´t slow down. He has his eye on the ball, performing surgeries, informing and advising on eye care and keeping himself in check alongside. That´s the mark of a fine doctor
Text & Photographs: Farzana Contractor
Dr Kirit Mody is a practising ophthalmic surgeon, quietly and most humbly going about his job since the past 40 years, ever since he returned to India in 1975, after his studies and practice in England, where he specialised in Retinal Detachment.
It was in the late ´80s that I met this wonderful eye doctor, who went on to become not just our family ‘eye man’, but also to those of my dear and near friends. I developed this strong faith in Dr Mody because of my husband, Behram – Busybee to you – whose sight Dr Mody preserved after a surgical mis-adventure created by another doctor.
Dr Mody, has performed a huge number of eye surgeries to date. A staggering 60,000, give or take a few thousand here or there. These have been through various private and public hospitals, but mainly through charity medical camps he spear-headed and which were conducted in various small towns. Before coming to India, Dr Mody was in England for 10 years and he practiced in Edinburgh, Liverpool, Inverness and Nottinghill. Today he is the heart and soul at the Conwest Jain Hospital at Thakurwadi, Girgaum, where he operates as well as at other private hospitals; his private clinic is at Om Chambers at Kemps Corner, where he continues to sees patients late into the night, much to his wife’s chagrin, who feels he must slow down.
He may have slowed down, but just a bit. Here is a day in the life of Dr Kirit Mody, a Ganesha devotee and collector of the elephant god. Wakes up at 7.30 am, goes to work at 9.30 am, performs surgeries at different hospitals, returns home by 3 pm, eats lunch and goes to his clinic at Om Chambers where he sees patients until 11 pm or so…
I guess he comes from the old school where people selflessly give their lives to their professions, all in the line of duty and I doubt Dr Mody will ever really slow down. He is 76.
“Dr Mody,” I ask a two-in-one question, “how do you take care of your eyes and how does one take care of one’s eyes?”. “Young lady,” he answers with a laugh and eyes twinkling, “I will answer the second part first; One: if you notice any problem with your vision, like difficulty in seeing, red eyes, immediately consult a doctor. Don’t think it will go away because you only make it worse. With eyes, immediate action is very important. Two: Indians largely, chronically, lack Vitamin A. This is mainly because of being vegetarian. So what must be included in our diet is a lot of carrot, green leafy vegetables like palak and other bhajis, green papaya and plenty of good, unadulterated milk. Three: Have your eyes checked at regular intervals. Especially for eye pressure. Between ages 36 and 40 when most people need reading glasses, a checkup is a must. Above 40, at least 3% people develop a high eye pressure, which even without their knowledge is slowly destroying their sight. This is easily controllable with a few eye drops, so why not? After 40 years of age a checkup every two years is advisable,” says the good doctor who explains that most eye diseases like cataract, glaucoma, retinal degeneration start around 40 to 50 years.
Dr Mody then goes on to explain how important it is to monitor new born babies right uptil they turn 12, but before that, gives me an account of his personal eye difficulty.
Apparently when the doctor was 45 years old, he noticed he had difficulty manoeuvring his way in the dimly lit cinema halls (he loves watching films) and got down to checking why… He found it was a Vitamin A deficiency and started on a multi-vitamin tablet of 5000 International Units. Within four weeks his ‘dark adaptation’ improved. After that (at age 50) he decided he should have antioxidant tablets which have vitamin A, E and other vitamins and minerals. He continues to have them till now. Silver Centrum, Adults 50+, it is called and he gets them from America.
But there is no substitute for good, fresh food. And if you are vegetarian, milk is a must, he emphasises. Otherwise, fish and eggs is ideal. And general care is; dont keep touching the eye - not even with a handkerchief, protect the eye from the sun and never spalsh water on the face. Now here’s the word of caution to young mums, as understood by a lengthy discussion with Dr Mody on the subject. The first eye checkup on a baby must be done at six months. Now is when it can be detected if the baby has cataract. Apparently a premature baby who is administered oxygen at birth is prone to ROP (Retinopathy of Prematurity). Babies could be going blind and it could just go undetected. Babies can´t really see till they are six weeks old. Until then their vision is very poor. From six weeks to 12 weeks, they develop what is known as primary reflex, from 12 to 24 they develop refixation reflex, and after six months the retina, macular start to develop. Its only at 3 years of age that eye muscles of babies are well-controlled. And if any issue has gone unnoticed and the child develops a lazy eye, then there is little chance of the eye developing fully.
In India, as high as 10% children have Lazy Eyes. And the cause is only neglect. So all that mothers have to do is have the eyes of infants checked at six months and then at four years before the kid starts to go to school. Dr Mody thinks, along with birth certificates, schools should ask for hearing and vision certificates, too.