Vision-impaired woman may see again after surgery

Celine Cheng, Special to The China Post

Adila Azhati, an 18-year old vision-impaired woman from Xinjiang Province in mainland China, decided yesterday to undergo surgery in Taiwan, using a transplant from her father, that could give her back her sight. Tsai Juei-feng, an ophthalmologist at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, originally planned to do the operation three years ago after seeing the young woman at the Orbis Flying Eyes Hospital in Urumqi while vacationing in Xinjiang. The operation had to be postponed due to red tape on both sides of the Taiwan Strait that prevented the young woman from traveling to Taipei. She finally received permission to come to Taiwan for two months after private organizations and the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission held negotiations with authorities in mainland China.

Tsai said that originally he had planned to transplant limbal stem cells from the woman’s right eye to her left eye. However, the vision in her right eye has deteriorated to the point that a transplant is no longer feasible. Instead, he said, he would have to transplant a stem cell from a relative. While the former procedure, referred to as auto graft expansion, has a 100 percent success rate, a transplant from a donor, known as allo graft expansion, takes only 70 percent of the time. Despite the possibility of failure, Azhati Weuier, the girl’s father, said he was happy to be a donor. “I would donate my stem cell to anyone who needs it, not to mention my eldest daughter,” he said. Tsai explained that the success of the surgery will depend on whether the girl’s eye can accept the graft. Adila Azhati commented that even though she is afraid, she has the courage to face the surgery. If the operation is a success, she plans to enroll in a university in Shanghai.