Calling an eye bank when a person dies is more important than filling a form, say experts

Many people sign eye donation pledge forms now, but the good intent of all of them to donate their eyes does not translate into reality. There is a wide gap between the number of consent forms collected from potential donors and the corneas collected by eye banks, according to ophthalmologists.

“Eye donation pledge forms are collected through camps in colleges or public functions. But only one percent of them translate into reality,” M.Srinivasan, Medical Director, Rotary Aravind Eye Bank, told The Hindu on Saturday. People had to call an eye bank immediately after the death of their family members, he pointed out.

Dr.Srinivasan said community participation was important in promoting eye donation. “Members of fan clubs, college students, NSS volunteers and the general public fill forms pledging to donate eyes after their death. The forms will be there in eye banks and with donors for several years, but they are not of much use. The family members have to call the eye banks to remove the eyes when the persons willing to donate eyes die,” he said.

The ophthalmologist said if people wanted to donate eyes after their death, they had to give a copy of the pledge form to their family members and express their wish to them so that others could contact the eye banks at the right time.

According to Dr.Srinivasan, the Hospital Cornea Retrieval Programme being implemented by Aravind Eye Hospital and Government Rajaji Hospital (GRH) is receiving good response.

Corneas of those who die in road accidents or due to heart attacks will be harvested after grief counsellors speak to the family members. In Tamil Nadu, about 8,000 corneas are collected every year while the requirement is much higher.

M. Veerasamy, eye donation campaigner and national convenor of National Ophthalmic Associate Association, said 75 per cent of corneal blindness occurred in children below 12 years. “There is a huge demand for donor eyes. Youngsters can encourage elders in their homes and surroundings to actually donate eyes instead of filling up a form to donate in future,” he appeals.

Mr.Veerasamy, who addressed the students of The American College on Friday, advised the parents to ensure that their children did not play with sharp objects such as pens, pencils, compasses and sticks to prevent eye injuies.

Dr. P.Thiagarajan, Head of Department of Ophthalmology, GRH, said, “We require 1.2 lakh corneas per year, but only 45,000 are available. If we sustain the eye donation movement, it will restore vision to many people.”

A human chain was organised by the GRH here on Saturday to create public awareness on voluntary eye donation, as part of the 28th National Eye Donation Fortnight (August 25-September 8).

Those willing to be part of eye donation movement can contact Aravind Eye Bank or the GRH, or Mr.Veerasamy at mobile number: 94434-74435.

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