“Death is no more than passing from one room into the other. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room, I shall be able to see.” – Hellen Keller, famous American deaf and blind author, disability rights advocate, and political activist.
These words hold true not just for Hellen Keller but for over 12 million blind people in India, of which 4 million are blind because of some condition of the cornea, the frontmost part of the eye. Normally, the cornea is clear and transparent, which allows the light to enter the eye and eventually get focused on the retina. There are a lot of conditions, infectious, inflammatory, genetic, or autoimmune, which turn this transparent layer into an opaque layer that makes the individual blind, as the light can no longer enter the eye. This leads to corneal blindness.
Hellen Keller was from the twentieth century when medicine was not as advanced as today. Moreover, the awareness about eye donation or corneal donation, in general, was less. Due to modern medical advancements, it is possible to transplant cornea and give sight to these corneal blind individuals by performing eye surgery.
It is possible for every human being to give the priceless gift of sight to another.
While awareness about eye donation is increasing it’s not enough. Internationally efforts are being made to make people provide more eye donation information to the general public.
June 10th is eye donation day to increase awareness about eye donation.
25th August to September 8th is celebrated as the national eye donation fortnight.
The cornea is the frontmost layer of the eye. This is a transparent structure that allows light to enter the eye. When we talk about eye donation or eye transplant we basically use the cornea only.
Cornea transplantation also sometimes referred to as eye transplantation is a surgery where a healthy cornea from a donor is used to replace a cornea that has been damaged or infected. The medical name for this procedure is Keratoplasty. Often, corneal transplant surgery is performed under local anaesthetic. The donor cornea is used to replace the diseased or damaged cornea during the process, and it is then sewn in place. Surgery for a corneal transplant has a high success rate and can help people who had trouble seeing well before. This technique can potentially change the lives of those with corneal disease.
Donation of eyes is a kind deed that can help the blind or visually handicapped regain their vision. The only portion of the eye that can be transplanted is the cornea, its outermost layer. Unfortunately, there is a severe shortage of corneas and a massive imbalance between supply and demand. According to WHO, every year, 20,000 people get corneal blindness, and the average eye pledging number is 57,000. However, the actual donation happening per year on average is 2,250 eyes. Thus, it becomes important to create awareness about eye donation.
The procedure for donating an eye or corneal donation is simple. The cornea donor usually pledges to donate the eyes after passing away. This can be done by filling out a donor card, signing up online on an eye bank’s website, via a Non- Profit Organization that runs an eye bank, or just telling family members what they prefer. For the donor’s intentions to be carried out, discussing this choice with the donor’s family is crucial. Within six hours of the donor’s passing, the tissue donation should occur and then the corneas are extracted and taken to an eye bank, which will be processed before being used in a transplant.
In India, potential donors must inform their family members and make sure that they follow their wishes. It’s important because it’s the donor families that will give consent for the tissue donation at the time of their grief. They will also have to make the call to the eye bank at the time of making funeral arrangements.
In case there is a death in your family, and you want to donate their eyes, make sure you follow the steps mentioned below: