Gift of sight should be considered here and now

Corneal transplants are the oldest transplant procedure performed. An effort by Lions Club International is being made to make people aware of donorship possibilities. The cornea is the transparent covering that lays over the iris and the pupil. When it is removed it looks like, and is the size of, a clear contact lens. Looking through a cloudy cornea is like looking at a steamed-up bathroom mirror. To see the joy on the face of a recipient who has restored vision and can see for the first time in several years is beyond description. Corneas deposited in the Western Texas Bank Alliance don’t stay banked for very long. Once a donor family has given “consent” the corneas are removed from the donor by a specially trained technician and placed in a special antibiotic solution. The tissue is then taken to the eye bank for evaluation and processing. When the tissue has been cleared for distribution it is transported to waiting surgeons for transplant into the recipients. All of this happens usually within five or six days from time of family’s consent. Because the eye bank is not located in a large city, corneal tissue needed for transplant is not always readily available. The larger eye banks have 50 to 75 donors a month and usually have transplantable tissue available. For this small eye bank there may be five or six donors in some months while in others there may be only one or two donors a month. There is always a need for donors and the time to make a decision for donation is now. Waiting until a tragedy occurs or the death of a loved one happens is the hardest time to deal with a decision for donation. That is the time when the family has to think about contacting other family members, choosing a funeral home and talking with the funeral director who will require more decisions. Donation can also offer the family some measure of comfort by knowing that some good can come out of a sad situation. Donors and recipients are all ages and come from all walks of life. The bank’s youngest donor has been a three-year-old and the youngest recipient has been a three-month-old baby born with a congenital disease who would have gone blind without the necessary transplant. Only because someone said “yes” when given the option of donation was the precious gift of sight made possible. Because there is no blood supplied to corneas, there is no tissue matching required and all corneal transplants are 90 percent successful. To become a donor is relatively simple. Either contact your local Lions Club or call Western Texas Lions Eye Bank Alliance at 866-226-7632 (toll free) to request a “donor” sticker for your driver’s license and a Donor Card that is to be completed and carried with you at all times. It is suggested that the card be kept behind your driver’s license for easy locating during a time of need.

Leave a Comment