March, Eye Donor Month

March is National Eye Donor Month.

March is National Eye Donor Month and it’s a great time to raise eye donation awareness, honor donors and their families and celebrate cornea recipients. There are a 39 million blind people across the globe and an estimated 12 million of them have a treatable condition with a simple solution — a cornea transplant. More than 48,000 Americans have their sight restored each year as a result of corneal transplants. Eversight, and its 87 accredited fellow eye banks across the country, provide the tissue that makes these life-enhancing procedures possible.

The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped tissue at the front of the eye and can be donated when a person passes away, just like other organs and tissues. Today, thanks to the increased number of registered donors and ocular tissue available, waiting lists are nonexistent in the United States, and cornea transplants are the most frequent and successful transplant procedures performed.

An ASE subscriber serves on the Board of Directors for Eversight, a network of community eye banks. Eversight is a charitable, not-for-profit organization with the mission to restore sight and prevent blindness through the healing power of donation, transplantation and research. Located in Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio and South Korea, Eversight is one of the global leaders in recovering, processing and providing human eye tissue for transplantation and research. Last year alone they shipped eye tissue to 14 countries, from Thailand and Kenya to Pakistan.

What does an eye bank like Eversight do?

  • An eye bank receives a call from a hospital, an organ procurement organization or another third party that an individual has died and has met preliminary criteria for donation.
  • The eye bank has a very short time within which to contact the next of kin, obtain consent and recover the tissue. This generally needs to happen within 12 hours of the time of death.
  • Eversight collects, stores and transports the eye tissue and delivers it for transplant.
  • Eversight also supports research into cures for eye disease and provides tissue to researchers.

What does a cornea transplant cost the patient?

  • Corneal transplantation is covered by health insurance.
  • Eversight also has a Gift of Sight program, which helps patients with limited income or insurance coverage receive life-changing cornea transplants.

What can you do?

I had a few other questions for Eversight, and here are their answers.

  • Before eye banks: Eye banks like Eversight have successfully eliminated the waiting list for cornea transplants in the U.S. Go back in history and someone would have to wait months to receive a cornea transplant.
  • In countries without eye banks: Much of the rest of the world —China, India, the Middle East, South America and Africa — doesn’t have a system of eye banks like we do the U.S., and most of those places don’t have donor registries. It’s why Eversight opened an affiliate in South Korea where there are currently an estimated 20,000 people waiting for a transplant.
  • Eversight research: Lauren Johnson, the Eversight Tissue Processing Services Manager, and Dr. Parag Majmudar of the Chicago Cornea Consultants recently published a research paper in Cornea, one of the top peer-reviewed ophthalmology journals in the world.
  • Eversight also delivers more than 3,000 tissues for research and education annually, and the Eversight Eye and Vision Research Grant program has awarded more than $3 million since 1980 to stimulate new and pioneering research. Several of these grant projects have led to larger studies and financial support from the National Institutes of Health.

Eversight next steps…

Eversight is set to launch its Disease Donor Registry & Biorepository in Cleveland in 2017. Through the program, Eversight will collect, process, store and distribute ocular tissue that matches the specific needs of researchers, accelerating new cures and treatments for blinding eye conditions like diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and glaucoma – diseases that currently have no cure.

Interested in more information on Eversight? Here is link to the information they have posted on Guidestar a nonprofit data base and quality check. Eversight page on Guidestar.

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