The victim of a horrible acid attack W.A. Nuwan Prasad who regained 77 per cent of his vision after many an arduous surgery in Chennai makes a plea to you the readers to help him hold on to his sight By Kumudini Hettiarachchi   “Please help me retain the little sight I have in my [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

From darkness to little light, but for how long?


  • The victim of a horrible acid attack W.A. Nuwan Prasad who regained 77 per cent of his vision after many an arduous surgery in Chennai makes a plea to you the readers to help him hold on to his sight

By Kumudini Hettiarachchi

What you can do: All those generous donors who wish to support this victim to at least hold onto the little sight he has in his left eye, could send in their contributions to Account No. 71434495 at the Bank of Ceylon, Delgoda branch in the name of W.A. Nuwan Prasad. He is appealing for any amount of money that can be spared, as he needs to collect around Rs. 500,000 to go back to Chennai. Nuwan may be contacted on: 0771029918 (mobile)


“Please help me retain the little sight I have in my left eye.”
This is the heartrending plea of 34-year-old W.A. Nuwan Prasad from Udupila South in Delgoda, a victim of jealous rage.
His life-story reads like a chilling novel — how the future of a bright and dashing young man could change drastically within seconds with the flinging of what he thought at that time was water by the person who was dearest to him.
His eyes were the most attractive feature when he was 22 years old. “I had balal as (cat’s eyes),” says Nuwan when we meet him in his humble, half-built home in Udupila South on Tuesday morning.

As he takes off the dark glasses, we are assailed by the tragic result of an acid attack, making us reluctant to look at his eyes.
He is blind in his right eye and is terrified that the vision he had gained in his left eye after numerous and painful surgeries at the Sankara Nethralaya in Chennai, India, would fade away shortly.

More reviews are needed urgently, for which Nuwan has to be in Chennai on August 22 and it was in desperation that he called the Sunday Times, after being told that the newspaper would be able to plead for generous donations to meet his costs.
“I cannot go alone,” says Nuwan, on the verge of breaking down, while his wife Chandrani and their six-year-old son, Anuhas, silently tap him on the shoulder and hand him his medical file, to pass onto us.

Handsome Nuwan before the acid attack

Out falls a small brown paper bag spilling its contents on the rough cement floor of the verandah………..photographs of Nuwan in happier times sans the heavily disfigured eyes.
Tragic his life has been since the acid attack 12 years ago on August 13. Boarded at a friend’s home close to his workplace at the Free Trade Zone in Biyagama, Nuwan as an electrician was the breadwinner of his family – mother, two younger sisters and younger brother – then back home in Rawa Ela, a village in Kurunegala.

He arrived at his workplace early, around 5.30, that fateful morning and at the gate-house was his girlfriend who chatted with him casually. With a heavy workload during the week and undergoing a boiler-operator course during the weekend, there was not much time for romance. Lately there had been exchanges of acrimonious words, as his girlfriend was suspicious that he was involved with another woman.

That morning, however, they just exchanged pleasantries and she left. As soon as he walked into his workplace, there was a call from the gate-house that there was someone to meet him. As he approached the area he saw that it was his girlfriend again and suddenly heard a swoosh and felt some liquid like water splashing on his face.

“It was still dark and I didn’t realize that she had flung something at me until there was an excruciating burning pain on my face and chest,” says Nuwan re-living the horror of that morning. The rest is bitter and agonizing reality, not just horrific memories. Rushed to the Eye Hospital in Colombo, he remembers having only two blobs of flesh for his eyes. His weeping mother could not recognize him.

When his condition took a turn for the worse, he was transferred to the Burns Unit of the National Hospital. The long and difficult road to recovery saw many, many procedures being carried out – all the skin peeling off, grafts being performed on his chest with skin from his thigh and no one believing him when he said that there was slight vision in his left eye, but giving him a white cane. Two months he was in hospital, with eye clinic visits every month thereafter.

Exactly a year later, in despair he went to the then Apollo Hospital at Narahenpita, where the doctors suggested that he try the new procedures available at the Nethralaya in Chennai. Selling whatever little he possessed, begging and borrowing money, that is what Nuwan did. He and his family first went to the Uda Maluwa at the Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura to hold poojas and begin their fund-collection, when police told them in no uncertain terms that they could not do that. Suddenly, the Atamasthanadipathy, Pallegama Sirinivasa Loku Hamuduruwo beckoned them and when they related their plight silently handed Nuwan Rs. 100,000.

In Chennai, assessed by the then Director of the Nethralaya’s C.J. Shah Cornea Services, Dr. G. Sitalakshmi, he was told that she would refer him to Prof. Giancarlo Falcinelli who would take the crucial decision whether he could undergo a relatively new procedure called the Osteo-Odonto Keratoprosthesis (OOKP) or tooth-in-eye surgery.

OOKP had been developed by Italian Surgeon Dr. Benedetto Strampelli and later modified by Prof. Falcinelli of the San Camillo Hospital in Rome, Italy, who paid regular visits to the Nethralaya to attend to patients. Nuwan’s case was to be reviewed by none other than Prof. Falcinelli who however did not think Nuwan was a good candidate for the procedure.This complex several-stage surgery attempts to restore vision in eyes with severe corneal and ocular surface disorders where no other surgery is possible, states a document from the Nethralaya in Nuwan’s file.

“It involves the removal of a canine tooth from the patient, shaping and drilling it to allow implantation of a ‘plastic optical cylinder’ (an artificial plastic corneal device) which is then placed into the eye a few months later to restore vision,” it states.
But, Dr. Sitalakshmi was ready to undertake the arduous challenge of attempting to restore vision in both Nuwan’s eyes and many were the surgeries from August 2005 to August 2014.

And he did regain his vision, though only in his left eye. It is with much emotion that he recalls the day his bandages were removed and Dr. Sitalakshmi asked him gently whether he could see who was standing before him.
“Amma,” he said, overcome by emotion.

Life, meanwhile, had settled into a routine back home in Sri Lanka, between his numerous medical visits to Chennai when he and whoever accompanied him would take refuge at the Maha Bodhi temple there. Marrying a girl from his village, he not only started working as a Supervisor in a friend’s construction company for he had 77% vision in his left eye but also had a son. Later he had been able to find permanent employment at the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau (CECB).

The danger signals started last year – Nuwan felt as if a net had been thrown over part of his left eye and once again he was compelled to undergo two more operations, Modified OOKP, in Chennai, under Dr. Geetha Krishnan Iyer as his beloved Dr. Sitalakshmi had died of a brain issue. Now he needs regular check-ups back in Sri Lanka at Lanka Hospital under Eye Surgeons Dr. Rajesh Fogla and Dr. Nanda Kumar.

Nuwan who has to go back to Chennai too for further checks is in dire financial straits. With a disability allowance of Rs. 3,000 from the Social Services Department, his wife making paper ornaments for sale, renting out a room of their home and a lot of help from family and friends they are able to eke out a hand-to-mouth existence.

Casually, when we ask what father, mother and son would be having for lunch on Tuesday, there is silence for a while and a hesitant murmur of “buth saha pathola kariyak” (rice and a snake-gourd curry). Of course, there will not be any type of protein — meat, fish, egg or even dried fish — on their plates as this family just cannot afford it.

What Nuwan is pleading for is not money to keep hunger from their door, but a helping hand for him to visit Chennai and get his sight cleared so that he can return home, do a job and fend for his family.

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