How SightLife is Building Awareness of Eye Donation
Eye Donor Month is promoted annually as a way to increase awareness of eye donation in the U.S. While few people are ultimately able to become organ donors, most people can become an eye donor. As the need for corneal transplants rises, we are working to increase the supply of corneal tissue to benefit our partners around the world.
Our awareness efforts, along with those of other eye banks across the country, are working. According to the EBAA 2013 Statistical Report, there was an almost 6% increase in the number of corneal grafts provided for transplant. These grafts helped to restore sight to over 48,000 people in the United States.
While we focus our awareness efforts on Eye Donor Month every March, SightLife works tirelessly all year long to promote eye donation to our partners. Corneal surgeons, recipients and donor families are all critical to helping spread the word about how transformative corneal transplantation is for those who are blind. What many people may not know is how healing the act of donating a cornea can be for a donor family during one of the most tragic events in their lives.
SightLife’s Family Services Program is committed to our donor families, offering continued support before, during and after donation has taken place. We are humbled that during times of great grief, donor families are able to find the courage to help make the gift of sight a reality for someone struggling with blindness. This was the case for the Autry family of Montana, according to Dr. Jonathan Diamant of Kaiser Vacaville Medical Center’s Department of Ophthalmology. Dr. Diamant was present when his patient, Emelia Mijangos, met her donor family as part of SightLife’s involvement in the 2014 DonateLife Rose Parade float. “The experience was enlightening,” he says. “It opened up for me the human aspect of donation and the connection between donating and receiving tissue.” It also, he says, made him want to be an even stronger advocate for donation.
The Autry family, Emelia (third from left) and Dr. Diamant (third from right). Photo by Paul Joseph Brown Photography.
The Autrys have become strong advocates for donation, as has another rather unexpected family member – Emelia’s grandmother, who lives in a small village outside Mexico City and who was unaware of donation until her granddaughter found herself in need of a transplant to restore her sight. When she learned Emelia would be meeting her donor family for the first time, she called her weekly for updates and shared the exciting news with her friends, family and neighbors who were also unfamiliar with donation.
Read the story here.
Below are some videos from Eye Donor Month, first in English and then in Spanish.
The message of Eye Donation Month isn’t limited to just one month out of a year. SightLife continues to advocate for eye donation to help others see the world through new eyes.