Things are looking up for Nikhil after corneal transplant

2011-03-29 00:00

“WITHOUT contact lenses, I’d walk into a wall.”

This was Nikhil Dhindayal’s daily life until a few days ago, when he received a corneal transplant. He waited a year for a donor organ and his transplant operation.

The 23-year-old Howick resident first started noticing symptoms of keratoconus, degeneration of the structure of the cornea, in 2006 when he was working in London. According to the Ophthalmological Society of South Africa, the condition occurs when the “cornea develops an abnormal curvature that makes normal vision impossible”.

As Dhindayal explains , the cornea, or the thin, clear layer at the front of the eye, is usually round, like a soccer ball. But with keratoconus, the cornea thins and becomes oval shaped, like a rugby ball.

When all other treatments were exhausted, Dhindayal had to have a transplant of the cornea. According to Dr Ed Anderson, Dhindayal’s doctor, keratoconus is quite common, affecting one in every 2 000 people. That means that in every second high school, an adolescent will have the condition.

However, only about 20% of patients with keratoconus need surgery, and there are other treatments, such as contact lenses and a procedure called “corneal collagen crosslinking”.

If the patient, as in Dhindayal’s case, is not eligible for other treatments, the patient needs to have a donated organ transplanted. This meant that Dhindayal had to put his name on a list and wait for a suitable cornea to become available.

In South Africa alone, almost 350 people, 16 of them children, received cornea transplants in 2009, according to the Organ Donor Foundation.

Dhindayal says he had been waiting so long he had almost forgotten about the possible transplant.

“When I heard [that there was a donor organ], I was shocked,” says Dhindayal, “My mom called and she was crying. I thought someone had died.”

His mother, Neesha Dhindayal, said, “We were ecstatic. It was beyond comprehension that we had got that call.”

Dhindayal is already showing signs of improved vision after his surgery on March 22.

The donated cornea, received a few weeks before his 24th birthday, is the “best birthday gift ever,” he says.

After the year’s wait, the Dhindayal family want to urge readers to become organ donors.Neesha Dhindayal says: “Words cannot express the value of such a precious gift. The pure joy of Nikhil regaining his vision will be a constant reminder of the donor’s sacrifice. We will always be grateful.”

Anderson says there is a shortage of donors in South Africa, and often patients who do not apply to international lists can wait for up to four years for an organ.

In order to become an organ donor, visit the Organ Donor Foundation website at or call 0800 22 66 11.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.