As a funeral director, Diantha worked closely with the eye donation process for many years in her family’s funeral home. She often spoke with families whose loved ones had chosen to give the gift of sight, and therefore was very familiar with Saving Sight and its mission. As a proponent of donation, she’d often discussed the donation process with individuals when pre-planning a funeral. Diantha never guessed that years later, she’d benefit from the gifts of two eye donors.
Diantha, in the middle, pictured with her mother and husband.
During a regular eye exam in April 2021, she learned that she would need cataract surgery and had a hereditary eye disease called Fuchs’ dystrophy. For patients with Fuchs’, fluid builds up in the cornea, causing it to swell and thicken. Over time, this can lead to corneal blindness, discomfort, and pain. Diantha’s eye doctor informed her that the disease would likely progress and scheduled her to come back in a year.
Over the next year, her vision continued to degrade to the point where she could barely read and could no longer drive at night.
“The scariest incident I had was while driving alone from Atlanta, GA, to St. Louis,” Diantha recounts. “I miscalculated my time and the weather, and it was starting to get dark before I reached my niece’s hotel room in St. Louis. I literally could barely see road signs, and the car lights were blinding me, so I pulled off the nearest exit, pulled into a convenience store, and called my niece to come get me. I knew it was time to do something.”
In August 2022, Diantha underwent two consecutive corneal transplant surgeries to restore her vision. Both surgeries were successful in restoring her sight. Today, Diantha has resumed her normal day-to-day activities, including driving, reading, and enjoying the beauty in nature that had become a blur. The gifts that two cornea donors and their families gave are precious to her.
“Helping others is very important in life and very rewarding,” said Diantha. “Donation is such a gift to receive, but just as important, the donor family receives the gift of knowing someone has been helped through their donation.”
Since 1991, Dr. Ukeme Umana of Marion Eye Center has made annual humanitarian trips to Nigeria, providing much-needed eye care, and performing sight-saving surgeries. Most recently, Dr. Umana traveled to Nigeria in October 2022. During this trip, he saw many patients who normally would not have access to eye care and was able to perform cataract surgeries and several corneal transplants.
“In 2013, I started offering corneal transplants in addition to other surgeries,” recounts Dr. Umana. “People come from all over the country because there is no eye bank in Nigeria.”
This 5-year-old patient had scarring on his cornea and received a transplant to restore his sight.
Since that time, there has been a steady need for his services. Patients range in age and travel far to receive the sought-after care that Dr. Umana and the other volunteer doctors provide. During this most recent trip, Dr. Umana was able to help restore sight to a 7-year-old who needed cataract surgery and saw a variety of cases that resulted from infection and limited access to vision care.
For years, Saving Sight has provided Dr. Umana with tissue for his mission work, and during this most recent mission trip was the sole source of tissue. Dr. Umana’s work to reach underserved areas of the world like Nigeria extends Saving Sight’s mission beyond our local service area.
During his trips abroad, Dr. Umana also focuses on training local physicians as there is a shortage of doctors specializing in corneal transplantation. While time is short and the need is great, every opportunity to teach others is valuable and precious.
Dr. Umana expects that he will return to Nigeria again in the spring of 2023.
In October, the Wichita community said farewell to a friend and visionary in eye care. Dr. Bruce Grene, the founder of Wichita-based Grene Vision Group, was also instrumental in establishing the Wichita Eye Foundation in 1986. With Dr. Grene’s support, the Eye Foundation would grow to eventually become the Kansas Eye Bank and Cornea Research Center, Inc., providing corneal tissue for transplant in Kansas and beyond. In 2021, the Wichita eye bank’s impact on local Kansas communities multiplied as it became a division of Saving Sight.
Dr. Bruce Grene was instrumental in establishing the Kansas Eye Bank.
Dr. Grene’s legacy can be seen in many facets of the practice of ophthalmology. His passion for ocular research and innovation led him to create Celluvisc, a worldwide product for treating surface eye disease and injury. Dr. Grene entrusted the royalties from the sale of Celluvisc to the Wichita Eye Foundation, helping to fund the Kansas Eye Bank’s growth and work in restoring sight.
In his creation of Grene Vision Group, Dr. Grene was ahead of his time in providing the best in patient care. He had the wisdom and foresight to create an integrated group of ophthalmology, optometry, and optical professionals working together to serve the community. Most importantly, Dr. Grene embodied a passion for serving patients.
“Bruce and I worked together for over two decades, and he was perhaps as charismatic and captivating of a person as I’d ever met,” said Dr. Dasa Gangadhar, ophthalmologist and original partner at Grene Vision Group. “The temperature in the room would go up when he walked in. He was loving, he was gentle, and he was a visionary.”
Dr. Grene is survived by his loving family and wife, Mary, who stood by his side during a difficult battle with Parkinson’s disease. He is also survived by countless patients who benefited from his work and many collaborators and coworkers who called him a friend. It’s in the same spirit of service that Saving Sight works to carry forth Dr. Grene’s vision of restoring sight.
To learn more about our history and the key individuals like Dr. Grene, who have worked to make restored vision a reality for others, visit www.saving-sight.org/about.
Celebrating restored vision and life honored through the gift of eye donation!
Eye Donation Month | November 2022
Join Saving Sight in celebrating the gift of sight and raising awareness about corneal donation and transplantation during Eye Donation Month in November. This annual observance, created by the Eye Bank Association of America, serves as an opportunity for eye banks, partners, and communities to commemorate the lives of individuals who have given vision to others through eye donation. The 2022 Eye Donation Month theme, “A New View,” celebrates the new perspective on life that corneal transplant recipients experience after having their sight restored, and the change in viewpoint donor families express when the pain of a loved one’s death is at least partially mitigated by the opportunity to share the gift of sight with someone in need of a transplant.
Celebrating a New View
Cynthia began losing her vision due to keratoconus at the young age of twenty. As an avid photographer, her vision loss was devastating. Thanks to the gifts of two cornea donors, today Cynthia has a new outlook on life, which is captured in her photographs!
One of the many ways that you can support Saving Sight’s mission to change lives by saving sight is to help us raise awareness for the need for eye donation and help get others to join the organ and tissue donor registry! Whether it’s making a goal to get a group of friends to register online, or sharing a story on social media about the life-changing gift of eye donation, Saving Sight has got you covered with resources.
Follow Saving Sight on Facebook at @WeSaveSight for stories to share all month long. And, when you’re on Facebook be sure to check out the Eye Bank Association of America’s profile picture frame commemorating Eye Donation Month. To access the profile picture frame just log into your personal Facebook account, click your profile picture and select “update profile picture” and then “add frame.” If you search for Eye Donation Month, you’ll find a special frame created just for November! Stay tuned to our social media feeds all month long for other extras like stickers and camera effects and how to use them!
Finally, please make sure that you are directing individuals to registerme.org as a call to action for them to sign up on the eye, organ and tissue donor registry! Their selfless decision may someday give others both life-changing and life-saving gifts.
Living Life With a New View
Watch Alexis recount the story of receiving restored vision from her corneal transplant and incredible gift from an eye donor.
Neal's life took a transformative turn in April 2022 when he underwent a corneal transplant, bringing newfound hope and clarity to his world. Neal, a resident of Kansas City, suffered from Fuchs Dystrophy, a progressive eye condition that clouded his vision and...
As a funeral director, Diantha worked closely with the eye donation process for many years in her family’s funeral home. She often spoke with families whose loved ones had chosen to give the gift of sight, and therefore was very familiar with Saving Sight and its...
On July 2, 2021, Saving Sight distributed 6 corneal tissues to the Donor Network of Arizona to be used by one of their surgeons in Tanzania for a mission trip. Dr. LeeSa Jackson joined Dr. Elisante Jackson Muna at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center to perform a...
In 2018, Saving Sight began working with Dr. Fawad Zafar. Dr. Zafar is a urologist who lives in Iowa and also coordinates the acquisition of corneal tissue for transplant in Pakistan. “In April 2017, one of my class fellows who was a doctor, but left medical...
"My mom was extremely devoted to her family, especially her mother, two kids and five grandchildren. She had just gotten her first granddaughter after four boys and was so proud. She was extremely giving, to the point she’d go without so others had. She was an AMAZING...
Supporting our partner surgeons in their humanitarian efforts is one way Saving Sight is able to honor the gift of sight. These partnerships offer the possibility for restored vision for those who otherwise would not have access to care. Ukeme Umana, M.D., is a long...
In Memory of Jeannette Hendricks, 1980-2021 “We called her Nette and she was an awesome chick. Beloved by her family, and respected by peers. Nette was very intelligent and down to earth. She had a wonderful sense of humor and was very creative. She was always...
For Connie, the road to restored sight was a journey she wasn’t sure would happen. At first, a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) blood clot in her leg stopped the process and she had over six months of healing before she could try her eye surgery again. During her second...
You can help us our quest to educate others about the life-changing gift of eye donation by purchasing our Eye Donation Month merchandise. Each image features the words of donor families and transplant recipients about how eye donation has provided hope and healing in their lives.