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How Eye Donors Provide the Ultimate Gift of Sight

Posted on June 13th, 2016

1-year old Joseph Carlson is now able to see thanks to a recent cornea transplant (image courtesy of KCCI8 News)

 

You've probably heard of becoming an organ donor before (in fact, you may even be a donor yourself). It's a decision that, while difficult to think about, could mean providing someone in need with lifesaving tissue and organs—including your eyes.

Just ask one-year old Joseph Carlson of Ndianola, Iowa. Joseph was born with a rare condition called Peter's Anomaly that left him completely blind. Thanks to the incredible gift from two anonymous donors, however, Joseph was recently given a set of corneas that, after being surgically transplanted, have literally allowed him to see the world for the first time.

Here in Canada, there are numerous "eye banks" like the one that provided Joseph with his corneas. These unique facilities receive thousands of donated eyes each year that are then transplanted to a wide range of recipients of all ages and medical situations across Canada.

Eye transplants, however, aren't simply a case of providing a new eyeball to the recipient. That's because once the optic nerve of an eye is cut, the eye cannot be reattached (although recent advances in technology may one day make this possible). Instead, doctors at eye banks focus on surgically removing the cornea; the transparent layer of tissue located in the front of the eye. These corneas will then go to individuals suffering from a wide range of vision issues, including genetic eye diseases (like the one that affected Joseph), and infections such as shingles or chicken pox, which can lead to blindness if they enter the eye.

The whole process of eye donation is incredibly complex, requiring the skills of multiple surgeons and the state-of-the-art facilities of an eye bank itself. The end result, however, is a testament to those individuals whose selfless act of generosity and kindness offers one of our most precious gifts: the ability to see the world around us.

To learn more about becoming an organ donor, visit the Canadian Transplant Society website at: www.cantransplant.ca.

It’s also important to make sure your own eyes are as healthy as possible before you consider becoming a donor. To get your eyes tested, book an appointment with an FYidoctors optometrist near you.