March is National Eye Donor Month; a time of the year raising awareness for eye donation, honoring donors and their families, and celebrating the many cornea recipients whose sight have been restored!
There are over ten million people globally who are affected by blindness or visual impairments. For a great majority of these people, restoring sight is only made possible through the generosity of cornea donation. In 2016, 82,994 corneas were provided for transplant from 69,049 cornea donors, per the National Eye Bank Association of America.
Because of donors’ heroic decisions in registering to be organ, eye, and tissue donors, cornea recipients have the opportunity to see color for the first time, feel relief from pain and discomfort in their eyes, and have sight completely restored.
For one cornea transplant recipient, Susan Harpster, pain and discomfort was all too familiar. In 1993, Susan was diagnosed with Keratoconus, a disease that causes thinning of the cornea. Susan’s corneas would swell to the point that they would crack and heal over as scar tissue. After 12 years of living with this disease, Susan’s vision got so bad that she was told her only hope for restored vision was corneal transplants. “Before the transplant, if there was a clock on the wall across the room, I could see it was a clock, but had no idea if there were hands on that clock or what time it was. The morning after the transplant, when they took the patch off my eye, I walked out into the waiting room and could immediately tell you it was 10:15” said Susan.
Susan currently lives with her husband in Billings, Montana and is enjoying life with her restored sight. She has been an incredible advocate for organ, eye, and tissue donation and has shared her story with donor families and recipients several times at our Donation Celebrations and around the Billings area. “I am now able to see better than I have since grade school! I no longer wear vision correcting glasses. It is nothing short of a miracle to me! Grateful is too small of a word to describe my appreciation to my donor families. Their gift restored my sight” Susan said.
Anyone can be an eye donor. It doesn’t matter what your blood type is, how old you are, what color your eyes are, or even how good your eye sight is; everyone is a universal donor! Registering to be an eye donor only takes a few minutes and is easy as signing up on our website or at your local DMV/DOL. You can even register on your iPhone using the Medical ID tab in the Health App.
We are also grateful for our partnership with our local eye bank, SightLife, and the close collaboration we have in saving lives through cornea donation and transplantation!
For more information about cornea donation please visit the following websites: