Corneal transplants performed in the United States this year will result in nearly $6 billion in total net benefits over the lifetime of the recipients, according to a six-month study undertaken by the Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA). Heartland Lions Eye Banks has been an EBAA member since 1961 and will provide nearly 2,600 corneas for transplant this year – an estimated lifetime value of $217,214,628*.
The study compared the medical cost of transplant procedures to the direct and indirect lifetime costs of the alternative: living with blindness or severe vision impairment. With a corneal transplant, a recipient avoids the direct expenditures that come with vision loss (e.g., higher routine medical costs and long-term care costs) and the indirect costs of potential years of lost productivity to both the recipient and any family caregivers.
“We’re acutely aware of how valuable cornea transplants are to our recipients because they tell us,” said Tony Bavuso, chief executive officer of Heartland Lions Eye Banks. “But this study gives us a more objective understanding of the financial benefits of our work. I think the EBAA has done a great job of illustrating that cornea transplants not only give the gift of sight to recipients but they also enhance productivity and reduce medical costs for our nation.”
Eye disorders are the fifth costliest to the U.S. economy after heart disease, cancer, emotional disorders and pulmonary conditions. The Eye Bank Association of America commissioned this study to determine the economic impact of corneal transplants. Researchers used previous years’ transplant numbers and census data to estimate total corneal transplants for the full 2013 calendar year.
The cost-benefit analysis depicted in the table below reveals that the lifetime benefit of the procedure is overwhelmingly greater than the costs of the surgery.
Lifetime Economic Cost-Benefit of Corneal Transplantation
Source: Cost-Benefit Analysis of Corneal Transplant, September 2013, The Lewin Group
Since Heartland Lions Eye Banks’ founding in 1960, more than 40,600 men, women and children have received corneal transplants to restore vision and relieve pain from injury and eye disease. With a success rate greater than 95 percent, the one-hour procedure restores the patient’s sight and quality of life. In fact, it’s one of the most common and least invasive transplant procedures performed in the U.S.
Corneal transplants also translate into direct savings by the federal and state governments. The study assumed full retirement at age 65, so the net indirect cost savings is small for these patients, but the per-capita lifetime net medical benefits of $67,500 for patients age 65 or greater receiving corneal transplants in 2013 will save Medicare, Medicaid and patients a combined $2.4 billion nationally, including $92,894,792* in the states served by Heartland Lions Eye Banks.
For a full copy of the report, please contact EBAA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Heartland Lions Eye Banks: Heartland Lions Eye Banks is a division of the Missouri Lions Eye Research Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization that changes lives by saving sight through eye banking, community vision programs and eye care assistance. HLEB operates six branches throughout Missouri, Kansas and Illinois, and it’s one of the five largest eye banks in the U.S., offering high-quality donor tissue to corneal transplant surgeons. For more information, contact email@example.com.
About EBAA: The Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA), established in 1961, is the oldest transplant association in the nation and champions the restoration of sight through corneal transplantation. Over 80 member eye banks operate in the United States, Canada and Asia. These eye banks made possible more than 70,000 sight-restoring corneal transplants in 2012 and the opportunity to perform more transplants is significant. Aside from those suffering from infections or communicable diseases, virtually everyone is a universal donor. The function of corneal tissue is not dependent on blood type, age, strength of eyesight or the color of the eye. To learn more, visit www.restoresight.org.
* Savings calculations are determined by multiplying the net lifetime benefit by number of patients served in 2012.
Since receiving her transplant, Diane has encouraged others to make the pledge to donate.
It was a routine eye exam that brought an incredible gift full circle for Diane, a cornea transplant recipient.
In August 2011, Diane of Independence, MO went to her eye doctor for a new pair of eyeglasses. During the exam, the optometrist noticed Diane showed signs of Fuchs’ dystrophy, a corneal disease that can lead to permanent blindness. Because Fuchs’ is usually a slowly progressing condition, Diane was surprised to learn the disease affected both of her eyes.
Diane immediately underwent a corneal transplant in one eye to save her sight. Although she faced some additional problems the weeks after surgery, today her vision has considerably improved. Diane no longer needs bifocals and can read her favorite books with no issues. In addition, her transplant has given her the vision she needs to teach painting classes, garden, and volunteer with her church’s thrift store – not to mention playing with her four grandchildren.
Diane’s transplant is just one chapter in her family’s story of donation. Several years ago, her husband, who had a brain tumor, died unexpectedly from an aneurysm. In order to prevent others from facing the same fate, the decision was made to donate his brain for research. Following his unexpected passing, Diane learned his corneas and skin were donated as well.
“When I received the letter from the recipient thanking me for the gift of sight, I was shocked at first. But I got to thinking about it – how wonderful it was that someone would be able to see and that skin grafts could help someone at a burn center. That changed everything for me. It made such a difference in how I looked at donation.”
Since then, Diane and her family have continued to pay it forward by spreading the word about donation and registering to become donors themselves – a pledge that grew even stronger after Diane’s own transplant.
“Because of our story, other people have decided to pledge to become donors as well. My best friend, other friends, people from church. Once you get such a special gift from someone, it touches the hearts of the many people who hear your story. And it certainly hits home when you realize you may be the one who needs another’s gift.”
Through correspondence, Carol was able to learn more about her son Mark’s cornea recipients.
When someone loses a loved one, it’s difficult to find the good in such a heartbreaking situation. However, for many families, eye, organ and tissue donation has given them a sense of hope. And when those families hear from their loved one’s recipients, it’s particularly rewarding.
In 2010, Carol lost her 30-year-old son, Mark. Unbeknownst to the family, Mark had made the pledge to become an eye donor through Missouri’s first-person consent registry – a move that didn’t surprise Carol.
“Mark was absolutely the most loving person that we know in our family,” she said. “He cared very much about his family – about everybody. He didn’t know a stranger. Mark was never judgmental, gave everybody a fair chance, and always tried to help the underdog.”
As Carol and her family moved through the grieving process, they received a letter from Heartland Lions Eye Banks informing them Mark’s corneas had been provided to two recipients in California. Carol wrote the recipients, introducing them to her son, and soon received letters back from both individuals. One recipient in particular struck a chord with Carol, and the two began corresponding frequently.
Explained Carol, “I can’t say enough about how his words have helped me. This man just amazes me. Even in his last letter, he said, ‘Mark and I had our stitches removed and the good doctor says our vision continues to improve. We are a good fit. There was a moment or two I did feel Mark was there.’ He couldn’t have said anything better to me.”
The recipient/donor family correspondence has not only helped in the healing process for Mark’s direct family, but for his church family as well. Carol has read letters from Mark’s cornea recipient to fellow church members, helping them to find hope desperate situations and encouraging them to follow Mark’s lead by pledging to become eye and organ donors through Missouri’s donor registry.
For Carol, the Eye Bank’s correspondence program has made a difference for her family, and therefore, she urges donor families and recipients alike to consider writing their own letters.
“I know Mark is living through this gentleman. I feel he has Mark in the palm of his hand like another grandpa, and it gives me such a comforting feeling. This man was so generous in his thoughts and words back to my family.
To learn more about writing your donor family or your loved one’s recipient, please read our Connect With Us page or contact the Eye Bank at 800-753-2265.
Dr. Andrew Moyes poses with 11 year-old Miriam who receive a second cornea transplant in 2011 with tissue provided by Saving Sight.
In a developing country like Haiti, vision loss can be a devastating blow to an individual’s ability to work and support one’s self, not to mention his or her entire family. Glaucoma, cataracts, corneal blindness – disorders that can be treated here in the U.S. – can sink a poor family into complete and desperate poverty. In Haiti, blindness can be lethal.
Yet, in the midst of this darkness, lies hope for thousands thanks to nonprofit organizations and mission groups as well as the dedicated volunteers who support them. Volunteers like our partner in sight, Dr. Andrew Moyes of Moyes Eye Center in Kansas City, MO, who has performed sight-saving surgeries on nine mission trips to Haiti, including corneal transplants using gratis donated tissue provided by Saving Sight.
An Ophthalmologist Discovers His Mission
When Dr. Moyes was first approached to donate his time at the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission (NWHCM), he made a financial contribution, but declined the invitation to Haiti. Soon after, as he watched a video on everything the Mission offered residents – the schools, feeding programs, birthing center, orphanages – he was moved to take his first Haitian mission trip.
In 2004, Dr. Moyes joined the surgical team at the NWHCM in the Northwest Zone of Haiti, the poorest state in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. On his first mission trip, Dr. Moyes and his fellow doctors performed 60 cataract surgeries; by his eighth trip in February 2011, that number grew to 162 performed in just four-and-a-half days.
In addition, the surgical team is trying to ease the devastating effects of glaucoma in the country. Said Dr. Moyes, “Glaucoma is so rampant in Haiti that one-fourth of people that we see in our clinic are blinded by the disease. Glaucoma isn’t even one of the World Health Organization’s priorities because it is so hard to treat.” However, through preventative eye exams, laser treatments to halt further vision loss, and glaucoma medications donated by Alcon and Allergan, the doctors are making headway.
“We’re trying to push back how quickly people go blind. Maybe Lord willing, someone will go blind in 12 years instead of two. When you see healthy 30 year-olds who want to work, but have no light perception because of glaucoma to perform a job, it’s enough to break your heart.”
Dr. Moyes also uses his expertise as a renowned corneal surgeon to save sight. In August 2011 for instance, he transplanted gratis tissue from the Eye Bank to restore vision to three individuals in need, including a 26 year-old male whose corneal scar affected his ability to work and an 18-year-old female who traveled from Port-au-Prince to this rural area of the country to save her vision.
But one transplant recipient who has stuck out in his mind is Miriam, an 11 year-old suffering from congenital hereditary endothelial dystrophy, a condition that thickens and clouds the cornea. Miriam received a corneal transplant in one eye two years ago – the result was so remarkable she was able to move from a special needs orphanage to one which provided her more independence. Because of a donor family’s incredible generosity here in the Midwest, Dr. Moyes was able to save her sight in her other eye, helping to provide her with a solid foundation for her future.
Continuing to Serve Both at Home and Overseas
The goal of these medical mission trips is not to perform the surgeries and walk away, but to truly help the Haitian people help themselves. Dr. Moyes and his colleagues are focused on teaching ophthalmologists in Haiti the skills they need to offer services throughout the year. In addition, because patient follow-up is so crucial after eye surgery, a Haitian ophthalmologist is available at NWHCM four days a month for follow-up exams and maintains contact with the medical team on any pertinent issues.
Even among the overwhelming circumstances – the backlog of patients, the country’s challenging infrastructure, the inability to help all who need assistance, Dr. Moyes finds hope and joy in the faces of those he’s helped. So much so that he has integrated his passion for the Haiti people into his professional life at Moyes Eye Center and into his personal life, now that his wife and four children often join him on mission trips.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about what needs to be done, what we can do to make eye care better in Haiti. Seeing the joy in people’s faces when they realize they can see again brings such joy to my heart. As anyone on a mission trip will tell you – you go there to bring blessings to others, but you will be blessed a hundredfold by them. It feels so right to serve these people.”