Friday, August 14, 2009

Darkness to Light - A journey

Eye Don Photo Assay

Ever wondered what makes life beautiful and enriching? What is it that makes every day with all it's toils so bearable and gives us the strength to keep going?

For some it is watching their children grow, for some it see to enjoy the beauty of nature, for some it is to see their loved one's smile. The list is endless. These are the moments that make life such a beautiful and seemingly unending journey. But to enjoy all these precious moments we need our 5 senses- Vision, Hearing, Smell, Touch and Taste....

but out of these it is the gift of sight that defines our lives, our actions, our feelings, just imagine, living a life imprisoned in a dark room without a single window and listening to sounds winds, rainfall, of children laughing, people talking, life passing by beyond those walls, but without you being able to see them, frustrating wouldn't it be?  You would want to tear down those walls, won't you?

But there are some people, who are imprisoned in this darkness, not by some walls, but rather by the absence of the gift of sight, by BLINDNESS.

There are many causes for blindness. In all these cases some or the other part of eye stops functioning, tossing these people into the dark world of blindness.

Some of these causes like cataract, corneal blindness, glaucoma can be treated and these lucky people can enjoy the beautiful journey of life. Out of these next to cataracts, corneal blindness has the highest chances of successful treatment, all that is needed is a donor's cornea.

In India we have about 10 million blind people,
                           out of which 2 million suffer from corneal blindness, which is easily treatable by corneal transplants
                           among these 2 million, a massive 60% are children and the number, is increasing every year, 
                           as against an annual corneal donation of a mere 40000.

What is a Cornea?

When you look at your eyes in the mirror, you see the white portion, which is Sclera, in the middle of which u see a colored round structure called Iris, in the center of Iris is a small round dark structure Pupil, covering these two is a transparent layer of cells called "CORNEA".

How does Cornea function?

Light has to pass through all the above structures to reach inside the eyeball and touch the retina and then the brain for us to see. If, the cornea gets hazy, opaque or scarred, the light entering the eye is either distorted or blocked depending upon the damage. Just imagine a smear on the lens of your camera while clicking a photo. What happens to the photo, happens to how we would see, if the cornea gets damaged.

How does the cornea get damaged?

Sometimes by accidents, burns, injuries by sharp objects, chemical injuries, some infections like herpes, uncontrolled diabetes etc. are some of the causes

How can we treat Cornea and bring the sight back?

Simple , by removing the scarred cornea (like you would wipe your stained camera lens) and replacing it with a new one, by a process called " CORNEAL TRANSPLANT". Easy as it may sound., it takes an exquisite amount of expertise to perform the operation,  but the toughest part of the entire process is to get a "DONOR CORNEA" i.e a cornea from somebody who has donated it to the blind for transplant.

The process of corneal transplantation begins with :

"DONOR" who fills a Eye donation form, either, at a "EYE BANK" or a hospital which performs corneal extraction and transplantation, In this form a person gives consent, that after their death their eyes can be removed and used for transplantation.

A donor card is issued to the person, which should be provided to the hospital, eyebank or the doctor at the time of the death of the donor, so that corneas can be retrieved within the stipulated time, but even a pledged cornea cannot be extracted without the consent of the relatives of the deceased ( a major hurdle..'cuz in their grief or due to their beliefs the relatives refuse to comply).

Another way of cornea donation is that some Hospitals have a "Hospital Corneal Retrieval Programme" wherein a terminally ill person and his relatives are counselled by counselors to donate eyes after death.

Cornea needs to be procured within 6-8 hrs of the death of the donor to be useful for transplantation after that they undergo degradation, so timely information to the concerned doctors is very essential. Also nearly 4 patients can be helped by a single cornea.

The procedure of corneal extraction need not take place in a hospital. Eye banking teams come to the home of donor for extraction and the process is absolutely non-mutilating and takes just 20 minutes, so there are no hindrances or delays in the last rites of the dead person, the extracted cornea is replaced by an artificial cornea transplant, so that their are no harms to the physical appearance of the deceased .

After extraction the corneas are examined for any infections like HIV, Hepatitis B , herpes etc and are graded according to their condition over a spectrum of excellent to poor.The high grade corneas are used for transplant purposes and low grade for therapeutic purposes.They are stored in a preservative medium till they are transplanted.

WHO can donate?

  • any person above the age of 18 (those below 18 need the consent of their parents or guardian's)
  • not suffering from HIV, Hepatitis B, HSV or metastatic cancer, or anyother infectious eye disease can donate. 

To donate :

  • you can contact your nearest eye bank (please check the Internet for eye banks located near you) or any Hospital or Doctor around you and you can get information about the process from them.
  • Once you become a donor kindly inform and explain your decision to your relatives and request them to carry out your wishes.

This way one may continue the unending journey of life by seeing the world through another person's eyes and by this small act you can make a person's life beautiful even after death . It doesn't cost anything to donate a cornea except a little act of empathy.

We all love getting gifts we want, don't we?

Why not gift a blind person the gift they covets most out of life by pledging your eyes for donation - The Gift of SIGHT.

(P.S. 25 Aug- 5 Sep is the eye donation fortnight, wherein multiple camps are held for eye donation all over India.)


Anonymous said...

Its so good to see someone write about such a delicate cause. People feel that they'll be destroying their bodies and will not attaining heaven if they donate body parts. Such blind beliefs have to be removed first of all.

Hipp Hopper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hipp Hopper said...

Can you please post some contact numbers of organizations which accept eye donation?

meeta said...

Hipp Hopper there is long list of organisations which xcept eye donation..if u'll giv me a location i'll defintly search up one nearest to you and let u knw :)..thank u for d comments :)

Blue Panther said...

A very informative article!