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Eye Donor Month honors the gift of sight

Lions Eye Bank pursues a win-win partnership with Lifeline of Ohio

Lifeline of Ohio began recovering corneas in 2011, and currently services 13 area hospitals. As part of its 2014 expansion, Lifeline of Ohio will work with four new hospitals, bringing the total to 17.

With two Eye Banking Association of America certified recovery staff members, Lifeline of Ohio has recovered eye tissue from 55 donors to date in 2013. Under current criteria, corneas can be recovered from donors ages 2 to 72.  Once the recovery occurs, the tissue is processed by the Lions Eye Bank of West Central Ohio (LEBWCO) for transplant.

“We receive and process the corneal tissue to ensure it is safe for transplant and first we distribute it to local surgeons, who use it to restore sight in patients in the central Ohio community,” said Angie Burnham, LEBWCO CEO. “As a result of our partnership, we have increased the number of local corneal transplants from 42 in 2011 to 122 through the end September 2013, using tissue given by Lifeline of Ohio’s generous donors.”

The cornea is the outermost layer of the eye. It is the clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye. Thomas Mauger, MD, chairman, department of ophthalmology at the Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University, is part of a team performing more than 100 corneal transplants each year. He said the need for most transplants results from injury, infection or disease.

“Some of the conditions are hereditary, others are not,” said Dr. Mauger. “With research, we have been able to further segment the cornea and customize the shape and size needed for a patient’s transplant. This results in better outcomes for the patient.”

Burnham said further innovation and research has allowed suture-less transplants, enabling patients to recover quickly too.

“I am excited and proud of our growing partnership with Lifeline of Ohio,” Burnham said. “I believe in giving back to the community. It’s reassuring to know if you are a registered donor, and you are able to give the gift of sight when you die, that you will help others in your area.”

Dr. Mauger says he would ask someone who was not a registered organ, eye and tissue donor, “why not?” He said, “I have the best job in the world. I help restore an individual’s sight. For people who have been told there is no other hope, I am able to help them see again. We all have the ability to share that gift.”

Through the eyes of a recipient

At Lifeline of Ohio, we are honored to hear the inspiring stories of lives changed by this selfless act. Recipient Chris Nance knows firsthand the far-reaching effects of organ donation. At the [X event], he shared his story to illustrate just how far a gift can go.

My name is Chris Nance, and I am able to look out and see clearly thanks to a generous cornea donor.

As a young child, I was diagnosed with an eye disorder known as Subluxated Lenses.  Over time, my condition caused my lenses to become detached from my eyes.  At the age of four, doctors began performing a number of, at the time, experimental procedures to place donor corneas on top of my eyes.  My donor’s corneas served as my permanent contact lenses. Thanks to my donor, I am now able to see with very little corrective help. 

My wife Ashley is a nurse practitioner and transplant coordinator for Nationwide Children’s Hospital Lung and Heart/Lung Transplant program. The program evaluates the young patients to determine if they are candidates for transplantation, provides education to those patients and their families, and assists with their post-transplant care.  

It’s because of Ashley and her passion for transplant, that I became more interested in my own experiences.We became connected to Lifeline of Ohio initially through Ashley’s job at Nationwide Children’s.  With both of us being runners, our first opportunity to get involved was with the Dash for Donation.  

We were fortunate enough to be invited to join the planning committee for the race in years past, and through this, we have been able to witness the amazing experiences folks have had through their various connections. Through the Dash, I realized that speaking out about being a registered donor and recipient was my way to honor my donor’s generous gift. Thanks to that gift, I will be able to again participate with the Sea of Green at this year’s Dash, Saturday, July 12.

You may know about the many ways a donor’s gift can save the lives of loved ones, but what you may not realize is how powerful the healing gift of tissue can be.  It doesn’t necessarily mean life saving, but it can be unequivocally life improving. For me, receiving a donor’s corneas enhanced my life in more ways than I can probably even realize.  

My son Breckin has the same condition that I have, but thanks to my donor, I know these types of things are just small hurdles in the race of life.

If you want to be a hero to someone like Chris, sign up to be a donor now.

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