Donating A Vision!

Some festive occasions are fraught with danger. It is commonplace to read about children losing their eyesight after playing with Diwali fireworks and Holi colours. Two million Indians are blind due to corneal defects. Half of them can have their sight restored through corneal graft surgery but there is a tremendous gap between demand and supply. There are many who would like to donate their eyes but do not know how to go about it.

There are 21 eye banks in Mumbai but only a handful in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. LV Prasad Eye Institute, Sarojini Devi Eye Hospital and Chiranjeevi Blood and Eye Bank are the well-known eyes banks in our city. Murali Krishnamachary Aasuri has worked at the LV Prasad Eye Institute between 1995 and 2003 and has started his own ophthalmic set up ‘Sulochana Eye Centre’ at Basheerbaug. He has performed adult and pediatric cataract surgery, complicated cataract surgery, LASIK surgery and corneal transplantation. He says, “When you donate your eyes, you have the privilege to donate sight to two visually disadvantaged people.”

Murali Aasuri says eye donation can be done by filling in a form to pledge your eyes and submitting it at an eye bank. You are given a donor card which has information and hotlines to be called. Murali stresses that one’s near and dear ones must be told to inform an eye bank within 6 hours of the donor’s demise. Often family members are so overwhelmed by grief that they overlook calling an eye bank even though it was the wish of the person deceased. The next of kin can also donate the eyes of a deceased relative even if he had not done so while he was alive.

Anyone can donate their eyes. Age is immaterial. It is the health of the corneal tissue that matters. Even the sclera or white of the eye is used in other eye diseases, for research and for training purposes. Spectacle users, those having had cataract surgery, even diabetics and hypertensive can donate. Many of the blind in India can have their sight restored through keratoplasty or corneal transplant. The transparent front portion of the eye is called the cornea. Eye color does not change after a corneal transplant. Injuries to the cornea are caused due to accidents, malnutrition, infection, chemical burns or congenital disorders. Babies are born with cloudy vision, children can damage their corneas playing gulli danda or lighting fire crackers.

A corneal transplant has a 90% success rate as there are very few blood vessels in the eye. The operation is done under local anesthesia, the patient’s unhealthy cornea is removed and a donor cornea stitched in place using a surgical thread which is 1/10th the thickness of a human hair. The patient’s hospital stay is only 1 or 2 days, in some cases, he is sent home on the same day! Antibiotics, steroid eye drops to control infection and prevent rejection, eye drops to keep the eye muscles relaxed and a painkiller are prescribed.

There was a spurt of eye donors a few years ago when Aishwarya Rai pledged her eyes but sadly the demand for corneas is far greater than the supply. There is a shortage of trained surgeons, technicians, cornea collection centers, transport facilities and necessary infrastructure. Celebrities should come forward to donate their eyes and create awareness. More volunteers are needed. Indian citizens can learn a lesson from neighboring Sri Lanka where most citizens pledge their eyes and corneal tissue from Sri Lanka is sent to other countries to give the gift of sight to visually challenged persons.

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24 responses »

  1. Beyniaz says:

    Thanks for writing in Vimala. You all are doing a great thing by being future donors.

  2. vimala madon says:

    A few points that come to mind reading your very informative article, Beyniaz.
    First, I was under the impression that the eye size remains the same during one’s lifetime (more or less) – not so?
    Second, what is the use of your body going into the ground or into a fire when your eyes, heart, kidneys, other organs, even skin can be donated to help others. There will be something of you living on in someone else at least for some time.
    My father donated his eyes, my whole family will too ( I must get the boys to sign the pledge). And the brattish Salman Khan has greatly enhanced himself in my eyes by donating his bone marrow during his life time.

  3. deepika says:

    Article with noble motive. Thanks for this article.

  4. vimala ramu says:

    A very informative article,Beyniaz as usual. Having donated my eyes already, I gathered a few more points. While Hollywood actresses INSURE their body parts, lovely Aishwarya Rai has DONATED her beautiful eyes. Secondly, what a pity that children are better fitted with young corneas, which means more youngsters should die ?! Sorry, it is my screwed up logic again.

    • Beyniaz says:

      Thanks for writing in, Vimala. You are absolutely right about children’s corneas. It is a heart-rending situation. Most parents are so distraught that even counselors hesitate to ask them to donate organs.

  5. Beyniaz says:

    Geetashree, adult corneas are used for adults and some teens. Children’s corneas are ideal for children. There is a tremendous shortage of children’s corneas and the wait for a donor cornea sometimes takes months.

  6. Geetashree Chatterjee says:

    A very, very useful, informative article. I have a query. Can an octogenarian’s cornea. absolutely healthy, be used for a child or a teenager? We do hear a lot of old people pledging to donate their eyes after death.

  7. Indrani Talukdar says:

    There are lots people who go without vision their entire lives. My parents have pledged their eyes to an eye bank and I plan to do the same. Great write up, but then I never expect anything less from you.

  8. Shernaz says:

    Beyniaz, hope you didn’t feel hurt by my comment because that wasn’t the intention. I was just joking.

    • Beyniaz says:

      Hey Shernaz, thank you both both the comments, they are both lovely.Glad you took the time to read and comment. 🙂

  9. Shernaz says:

    It is imperative that the eyes are removed within a specific time after the donor’s death. I know of instances where, the doctor has been late in coming to remove them. There have also been cases, where the deceased’s wish was overridden by the relatives – religious concerns! We need more articles of this kind to educate people and to make them realise that organ donation might probablyget you faster into heaven than rituals will. I loved your title. Coming from your pen one thought it would be about recycling left-overs in the kitchen 🙂

    • Beyniaz says:

      Thanks for reading this Shernaz and for the points you have made. I do write blogs and articles on things other than food! ;0

  10. priti says:

    Beniyaz please could u give me couple of email Ids so I could contact people for donations.How and where do we fill forms for donations in India.Thanks

    • Beyniaz says:

      Priti, thanks for reading this. You can contact any eye hospital/eye bank in India or abroad to pledge your eyes. Best is to tell your near and dear ones that you would like to donate your eyes as they have to contact the same hospital/bank within 6 hours of the demise.Many have filled in the form but the eye banks have no clue that they have passed away if there is no follow up by the relatives!

  11. Dear Beyni, So no delicious menu this time:(

    But, this article is no less either. It brings to the forefront an issue that requires a lot more awareness and action both of mind, spirit and conscience.

    Thanks for writing this….

  12. Sonal Shree says:

    I admire Jyoti Basu- not for his political career but for his last wish to donate his body to a medical college for research. Donating body organ/s is the best gift one could bestow on the needy. There is hardly anything comparable to this noble deed.

    • Beyniaz says:

      Yes Sonal, J Basu will be remembered more for his last selfless deed than for his Political policies! It was a great thing to do.

  13. Sneha says:

    Very informative article, Beyniaz. What’s most striking is the title and its parallel to the context you’ve mentioned.

  14. In this crazy world, something very important as eye donation also will need a celebrity to endorse it. But the fact is, many are actually unaware of the MEANS to do it – a friend’s father who passed away recently, had donated his eyes when he was alive – but this fact was unknown to his family, and they came to know about it from a relative just before cremation, and by then it was too late.

    We need more articles like this, in many platforms.

    • Beyniaz says:

      Thanks Om..this issue has been very close to my heart so I was not sure whether I could do real justice to this topic. You are right : many want to donate but don’t know how to go about doing this!

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