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Four surgeries fail to restore blinded UBC student's sight

Rumana Monzur at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, British Columbia, Tuesday, July 5, 2011.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail/Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

With damage to her eyes beyond repair, University of British Columbia student Rumana Monzur now faces a life without sight and an uncertain future, although she has said she wants to complete her studies at UBC.

"I am very grateful for the medical care I have received," Ms. Monzur said Monday in a statement provided by the university. "It had been my wish to recover my eyesight so I could see all the people who have been helping me. I want you all to pray for me. My family and I will need some time to adjust to this news."

Ms. Monzur underwent four surgeries, but the procedures were not able to restore any of her vision, UBC said.

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Her eyes were damaged in an attack that took place in early June in Bangladesh, where she'd travelled from Vancouver to visit her family. Her eyes were gouged and her nose bitten. Her husband, Hassan Sayeed, has been charged with attempted murder in connection with the incident and is in custody in Bangladesh.

Ms. Monzur, who'd previously taught at Dhaka University, enrolled at UBC last year as a visiting scholar. As news of her injuries spread, students and faculty at UBC scrambled to raise money and awareness to support Ms. Monzur, who was rushed to Vancouver earlier this month for medical treatment after being assessed at two facilities in India.

Last week, UBC said Ms. Monzur had undergone three surgeries and that specialists had confirmed "catastrophic" damage to her left eye, but that it was still not known whether there was any possibility of vision in her right eye. On Monday, the university said that four surgeries have been performed in an attempt to establish some vision, "but the severity of the injuries were found to be beyond repair."

Ms. Monzur has said she wants to complete her thesis and finish her studies at UBC, where she had been focusing on the emerging field of human security and climate change. UBC spokespeople have said the university will do all it can to enable Ms. Monzur's studies, including facilitating support and equipment she may need. To date, the university has raised about $61,000 of a targeted $70,000 to cover Ms. Monzur's medical and living expenses as she completes her thesis.

She travelled to Vancouver this month with her father, and her daughter and mother are expected to join her.

Ms. Monzur will now face adapting to life without sight, a challenge that encompasses everything from getting presentably dressed in the morning to moving independently around one's home and community, said John Mulka, president of the B.C. and Yukon division of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Wendy Stueck has covered technology and business and now reports on British Columbia issues including natural resources, aboriginal issues and urban affairs. More

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