Eye-doctor catches the world’s eye
In our current matter-of-fact world, miracles have taken a holiday.
You depress a key in your computer, it responds with the conventional
reaction. You push a button in your electronic appliance, the expected
result is registered. The automata that dominate our daily routine, have
diminished our belief in miracles.
But, even in this seemingly dull and unimaginative human atmosphere
of our day, on a very rare occasion an unexpectedly surprising event
revives our flagging faith in the miraculous.
At a recent gathering in a five-star hotel in Colombo, a young
ophthalmologist gave his audience a very strong base, on which we could
rebuild our belief in miracles.
To the youthful eye-doctor, it would have been the presentation of a
procedure he had developed over the years.
But, to the world, it was the announcement of a wonder-therapy for
The eye is the window, nature has provided to humans, to view the
marvels of the visual world.
Impairment of sight, condemns men and women into a harrowing
landscape of darkness.
As is widely known, the cataract is the commonest cause of reversible
blindness. As experts explain, a “cataract” is the clouding of the
eye-lens. It is only surgery that can reverse the vision impairment,
brought on by a cataract.
Dr. Shamintha Amaratunga, the young eye-doctor, has been dedicated to
his profession, with the zeal of a mission.
Certain circumstances, that did not have very much to do with
medicine, made it possible for me to know Dr. Amaratunga, about a decade
ago. Soka Gakkai Association of Singapore, nominated me for their Golden
I was offered this honour, primarily due to the efforts of Paul Dias,
the then Director-General of Soka Gakkai, Sri Lanka. Young Dr.
Amaratunga was one of the members of the retinae that accompanied me to
Singapore, where I had to deliver the address and receive the award.
Eye surgery on infant
At a lunch hosted by the Singapore Organization, Dr. Amaratunga
described in minute detail, the procedure he adopted to perform surgery
on a new-born child. The profoundly sensitive nature of that eye-surgery
on the infant, moved me to tears. The hosts too, were equally touched.
This was my initial introduction to his keen, selfless commitment,
and his total preoccupation with the need to refine the procedure. Dr.
Amaratunga presents a youthful personality and at times he seems even
boyish in appearance.
This places greater emphasis on his professional maturity. As an
entry into the process through which he developed his own system, Dr.
Amaratunga provides a useful background.
The aim of the surgery is to remove the cloudy material within the
lens and to replace it, with an artificial lens implant.
The cloudy material is removed with the support of the latest
technology described as “Phaco emulsification.” This is done with a
topical anaesthetic agent and it is a sutureless surgical procedure.”
The admirable aspect of “The Amaratunga” story is the sustained effort
he made over the years, to accelerate the procedure while fully
retaining the required quality and safety standards.
One could very well wonder, why such an acceleration was deemed
essential. This was determined due to the urgency, to heal fast
developing numbers of cataract patients.
It is estimated that there are about 500,000 cataract patients in Sri
Lanka. Of these about 100,000 are condemned to total blindness.
Statistics show that the number of patients keeps on burgeoning at the
rate of 100,000 a year.
This way it is starkly clear, that it is an urgent national need to
visually rehabilitate these cataract victims. In terms of the resources
available only 80,000 patients could receive cataract surgery per year.
The only viable solution, under the circumstances, is highly
responsible acceleration of the pace of the procedure. Over the years,
he refined this input, and has now developed into a standard and
He dwells briefly upon the phases through which he reached the
present miraculous peak.
Over a period of four-and-a-half years, he could manage 6 cataract
surgeries per hour. But, today, thanks to his self-developed procedure,
he can currently perform 20 surgeries per hour. For Dr. Amaratunga, the
average time per surgery is two minutes 20 seconds.
In a praiseworthy gesture of high generosity, Dr. Shamintha
Amaratunga shares his system, with his colleagues, through his e-book
titled “Beyond the Threshold. Efficiency in cataract surgery.”
At the launch of this video, the chief guest Maithripala Sirisena,
Minister of Health, observed inter alia, that the distinguished
achievement of Dr. Amaratunga, may elicit jealousy.
Young Dr. Amaratunga has developed a procedure to treat the cataract,
to prevent human blindness. But, a procedure is yet to be developed to
eradicate the cataract of the soul which makes people blind to what is
starkly good and great.