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.
At Saving Sight, our Communications team is responsible for internal and external communications, sharing donor family and recipient stories, branding, marketing, and connecting with our Lions Club volunteers. Our job is to tell the story of our mission to connect and encourage stakeholders to join us in changing lives by saving sight.
Our team encourages recipients and donor families to share their stories with us and in turn, we share those stories through multiple channels. When a story is shared with us, we share it on our social media platforms, on our website, and during our mission moments internally. These mission-centered stories really help put into perspective our mission which is to change lives by saving sight. The stories shared with us not only remind us here at Saving Sight why we do this work and why donation is so important, but it also helps spread the word about donation.
Another area that the Communications team is responsible for is overseeing correspondence between donor families and recipients.Many recipients and donor families are interested in communication opportunities, so we offer the opportunity to correspond anonymously between donor families and recipients. When Saving Sight receives a letter, we send it on to the appropriate party and allow them to correspond back and forth.
We also support donor designation by recruiting volunteers to help us at events that spread awareness for organ, eye, and tissue donation. By sending volunteer cards out in our weekly and monthly letters we hear back from people impacted by the work we do at Saving Sight. For example, we recently had a volunteer speaker at the Missouri State Capital for Donor Family Recognition Day and we are currently recruiting volunteers for future events.
With the help and support of Lions Clubs and our Lions board members, we can help communicate about the work we do with various stakeholders. We can connect donor families and recipients to help the healing process, share stories with our staff and on our social media and recruit volunteers to help with donor designation. Thank you for all the work you do in helping us change lives by saving sight.
Downing and Lahey Funeral Home, located in Wichita, Kansas, has been chosen as Saving Sight’s first Champion of Sight. The Champion of Sight Award recognizes our partners who exhibit extraordinary dedication in advocating and assisting in making eye donation possible. Together, with our Champions, we truly change lives by saving sight! Champions of Sight are nominated by and voted for by our team here at Saving Sight.
Our partners at Downing and Lahey Funeral Home work to help support the donation wishes of decedents and their families.
“We chose Downing and Lahey for their open communication. When I called to introduce myself, they let me know some areas of opportunity and how we could make them better. I followed up as promised by emailing their funeral home directors our commitment,” says Hospital Development Manager Kelly Falwell. We are lucky to have such great partners at Saving Sight that play a part in facilitating the eye donation process and advocating for donation, donor families and recipients in our service area. Downing and Lahey has been a great partner to Saving Sight by allowing our recovery technicians to perform recoveries in the funeral home from time to time.
Michael Morris, Funeral Director with Downing and Lahey says, “We understand the importance of donation and giving somebody the opportunity to see from somebody that’s passed away. That’s a great thing to be able to share with someone.” By working in tandem with funeral homes, we are able to honor the donor and their families’ wishes in being a donor.
In June 2021, Saving Sight and the Kansas Eye Bank joined together in a partnership to serve the entire state of Kansas. Our new Wichita facility has rich history of serving its community by facilitating the gift of sight. We’re happy to share the following images from the donor quilts that were made over the years, celebrating the legacy that Wichita-area eye donors left in their selfless gifts.
Saving Sight’s Donor Services Center (DSC) plays a vital role in facilitating the gift of eye donation for thousands of individuals each year. Our DSC serves as the communications hub of Saving Sight’s eye banking operations. The department, staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, keeps the donation process moving forward and helps fulfill the wishes of potential eye donors.
A DSC coordinator’s work begins when they receive a referral for a potential donor case from one of our organ procurement organization partners (OPO). The coordinator will then conduct a referral screening call with the nursing staff at the hospital that referred the death. If the potential donor meets Saving Sight’s referral criteria, the coordinator will contact the next-of-kin to discuss the opportunity for eye donation. Our DSC team will also conduct an in-depth medical and social screening interview with the donor’s next-of-kin to identify any potential rule-outs for donation.
Once the DSC has determined that Saving Sight can move forward with recovering the donor’s gift of eye donation, they dispatch a recovery technician on site. They will also make courtesy calls back to the donor hospital and the funeral home to keep them up-to-date on the recovery technician’s arrival and departure.
At the same time, the DSC team will work to gain access to the patient’s medical chart. They will review records for any potential rule-outs for donation to ensure safety for the transplant recipient. Finally, specially trained DSC team members will conduct a final review of medical records, serology results, and any other important information to the case to determine final eligibility and release for transplant.
The DSC’s work happens quickly, and eye donation recovery must happen within 24 hours from the time of death. Therefore, the DSC team members must exhibit excellent multi-tasking skills while also compassionately communicating with various stakeholders, including grieving families. We’re proud to have a group of caring and highly skilled individuals who work in our Donor Services Center!