Friday, September 4, 2009

Even the blind can donate eyes

Dr Anita Sethi There are an estimated 4.6 million people with corneal blindness in India waiting for a corneal transplant. Ninety per cent of these people are below the age of 45 years, including 60 per cent below the tender age of 12 years. Eye donations by you or your loved ones can make a big difference to the lives of at least two people. Who can be eye donors? Eye donation can only be done after death. Practically anybody above one year of age can donate without any upper age limit. People with poor eyesight, old age, spectacles, cataract surgery, diabetes and blood pressure can also donate their eyes. Even a person who is blind from retinal or optic nerve disease can donate eyes. Those who cannot donate their eyes are the ones who have died of unknown causes, or due to infectious rabies, syphilis, infectious hepatitis, septicemia, and AIDS. Does eye donation cause delays in funeral arrangement? No. Eye removal itself takes only 15-20 minutes and does not cause any disfigurement that would interfere with common funeral practices. How to make an eye donation? All one needs to do is tell your relatives and friends about your desire to donate eyes after death. You can also sign a simple pledge available at any eye bank, which will then provide you with a pledge card which can be carried in your pocket. While taking a pledge during one’s lifetime itself is a noble deed, it requires the support of the relatives or friends to carry out the process of donation after death. They need to call up the Eye Bank as soon as possible after death so that the eye can be obtained and preserved. Can the next of kin donate eyes of a relative if the deceased person had not signed an eye donation form? Yes, the relatives of the deceased can decide on the eye donation of their beloved one. How to make the eye donation? The eye should be collected soon after death and the sooner the better. Though the quality of the eye deteriorates with time, eyes may even be taken till 12 hours after death depending on circumstances such as the temperature at which the body had been kept. In case of significant delay after death, you need to discuss with the eye bank personnel regarding possibility of donation. Till the time eye bank team reaches to take the eyes, a few precautions need to be taken to prevent damage to the eyes. These include: Both eyes of the deceased need to be closed and covered with moist cotton. The ceiling fan above the body should be switched off. The body should be kept at as low temperature as possible. If required, ice blocks and air conditioners can be used to keep the body cool. The head should be raised above the level of the body. Once the eye bank is informed about your desire to donate the eyes of your beloved one, a team of eye bank personnel will reach at your place to collect the eyes. Call 1919 to contact the local eye bank. The writer is consultant and HoD Ophthalmology, Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon Source : The Asian Age

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