Every March, we at Unyts celebrate National Eye Donor Month. During this month, we honor donors and celebrate the gift of sight they give to others. The cornea, the dome-shaped outer layer of the eye, is the most commonly transplanted eye tissue.
Since 1961, more than 1,390,143 men, women, and children ranging in age from nine days to 100+ years, have had their sight restored through corneal transplant. In 2013 alone, there were 48,229 corneal transplants performed in the U.S. Amazingly, over 95 percent of all corneal transplant operations successfully restore the corneal recipient’s vision.
When Chris Spadafora was a teenager, he was diagnosed with keratoconus, a degenerative eye disorder that causes the cornea to thin and become cone-shaped. Keratoconus causes vision distortion and sensitivity to light. Chris has worn hard contact lenses since his diagnosis, but even then he has never had 20/20 vision.
Over the past few years, Chris noticed that his symptoms were getting worse. His eyes were so sensitive to light that he had trouble driving at night due to the glare from other drivers’ headlights. It was getting harder to see far away, too. Chris called one of his golfing buddies his “seeing-eye dog” because without his help, he couldn’t see where his ball landed.
When Chris started seeing a new optometrist, he found out that he was a good candidate for a cornea transplant. He didn’t exactly jump at the chance, though. Chris had never had surgery before, and it took some thought to decide that the procedure was worth it to improvehis vision.
Unfortunately, the cornea transplant didn’t work. Despite this huge disappointment, Chris was undeterred. Six months later, he underwent a second cornea transplant and this time it was a success. The second transplant may have been more effective because Chris’ second donor was close to his age. Chris plans to undergo a third transplant in the next few years to improve the vision in his other eye.
If Chris had the chance to talk to the people who donated their corneas to him, he would say, “Thank you so much. The concept of seeing clearly has been totally foreign to me, and it’s miraculous that I might have 20/20 vision in a few years because people like you chose to be donors.”
Anyone can be an eye donor. The great thing about corneal tissue is that everyone is a universal donor. Your blood type does not have to match and it doesn’t matter how old you are, what color your eyes are or how good your eyesight is. Aside from those suffering from infections or a few highly communicable diseases such as HIV or hepatitis, most people are suitable donors.
Would you like to become an organ and tissue donor? It’s easy! Visit this page to find out how.