23 August 2010
By Jayashree Nandi
Just 25,000 Out Of 30 Lakh In Need Get Transplant Done
In 2006, just after the death of superstar Rajkumar who had pledged to donate his eyes, a woman walked into Narayana Nethralaya with her baby wrapped in a black cloth. While doctors thought she had come with her baby for a general eye check–up, she told them that her baby had just died and she rushed to the hospital to donate his eyes.
"This is a very powerful example of eye donation that we always recollect. Imagine the mental state of a mother who just lost her baby but had the will to rush to the hospital and donate his eyes," said Dr Rohit Shetty, vice–president, Narayana Nethralaya. "Every time after a wellknown personality donates or pledges eyes, we get more such pledges. Awareness is very important," he added.
There are around 30 lakh corneal blind people but only around 25,000 corneal transplants take place. The rest are forced to live in the dark forever. Ophthalmologists are trying to bridge this huge gap because almost all the time there are at least 80 to 100 blind patients waiting for an eye transplant at hospitals and 30% of them are children below the age of 15 years.
Eye–collection centres in the city will observe the National Eye Donation Fortnight starting Monday.
Myths Hinder Action
Eye donations are not adequate because of the several myths associated with them. The first major myth is that the eyes are taken when the person is still alive. "That’s not true. We take the eyes within 6 hours of death. The family has to put two pillows under the dead person’s head, close his eyes and switch off the fan so that the eyes don’t go dry," said Shetty. The other myth is that many religions restrict eye donations.
Eye replacement is a considerably simpler surgery, which doesn’t require major infrastructure. Now there is technology to slice several parts of the cornea. The endothelium or the other end of the cornea provides clarity. People suffering from degeneration of the endothelium can get that alone replaced. "One cornea can serve at least two to three people now. Earlier the whole eye had to be replaced. In fact, for people who have done four to five grafts but with no success, there is Boston Kerato Prosthesis, an artificial corneal device," he added.
At the University of Ottawa in Canada, research is being done on artificial corneas which will soon be a reality.
For A Cause
- The eye donation fortnight was initiated by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on August 25, 1986.
- Singapore has very poor eye–collection figures but has one of the largest eye–transplantation programmes. It ‘takes eyes’ from Sri Lanka where collection and donations are one of the highest.