Practice Eye Safety This Independence Day

Practice Eye Safety This Independence Day

This year, we hope you enjoy a fun and safe Fourth of July with friends and family. While fireworks are a beautiful and time-honored tradition associated with the holiday, it’s important that you take precautions to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that there are 9,000 fireworks-related injuries each year in the U.S. Thirty percent of those are eye injuries, and one-fourth of those eye injuries result in blindness. What’s more, children account for the majority of fireworks-injury victims, and for children under 5, sparklers — which burn at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and can cause third-degree burns — account for one-third of fireworks-related injuries.

For these reasons, the American Academy of Ophthalmology encourages you to follow these recommendations:

  • Never let children play with fireworks of any type.
  • View fireworks from a safe distance: at least 500 feet away, or up to a quarter of a mile for best viewing.
  • Leave the lighting of fireworks to trained professionals.
  • Follow directives given by event ushers and public safety personnel.
  • Respect safety barriers set up to allow pyrotechnicians to do their jobs safely.
  • If you find unexploded fireworks remains, do not touch them. Immediately contact your local fire or police department.
  • If you get an eye injury from fireworks, seek medical help immediately.

If you do decide to shoot off fireworks yourself, be sure to follow all safety precautions, protect your eyes, and keep children a safe distance away. The staff at Saving Sight wishes you a safe and fun-filled Independence Day weekend

New OCT Machine Continues to Bring Innovation to Saving Sight

New OCT Machine Continues to Bring Innovation to Saving Sight

New technology allows Saving Sight to stay on the cutting edge as an innovative eye bank. Saving Sight recently upgraded our lab equipment to a new optical coherence tomography (OCT) microscope. It also allows us to be better stewards of the gift of sight while delivering the highest quality to our partner surgeons.

“The OCT is a big microscope that measures the thickness of the cornea, and we use it to measure our corneas before we start processing for our DSAEK or ALK processing. We also take images after processing so the surgeon can see what the processed tissue actually looks like. It gives us more insight on the quality of the tissue and if it will be suitable for the surgery type we are offering it for. We can be proactive in what we offer to the surgeons,” says Debora Van Klinken-Muntz, Lead Laboratory Technician.

“Using it as an eye bank saves us a lot of time. It also lets us be good stewards of the tissue we receive. I don’t know how we could do eye banking without an OCT machine.”

Changing Lives Through Sight Restoration in Pakistan

Changing Lives Through Sight Restoration in Pakistan

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 profession and went into foreign service, was ambassador of Pakistan at Sri Lanka. He was telling me how corneas were being sent from Sri Lanka to Pakistan and other countries. I thought that was a great project and I contacted them,” says Dr. Zafar.

At the time Dr. Zafar didn’t know that U.S. eye banks sent tissue internationally. He did a Google search for ‘cornea tissue for overseas surgery from the U.S.’ and the first eye bank that popped up was the Lions Eye Bank in Tampa. He called their eye bank. “I explained to them how we were raising money, and we wanted to send corneas to our Mayo Hospital in Lahore, where I trained. My class fellow at the time was professor of ophthalmology over there and they had a waiting list of 500 patients.”

They received 10 tissues from the Lions Eye Bank in Tampa that month, and the project was underway. Saving Sight, the Lions Eye Bank of Indianapolis and others also began working with Dr. Zafar on this project.

“At first, we were only interested in the Mayo Hospital in Lahore but, when I started calling around, it turned out that there are no measures of cornea donations, and nobody is donating any corneas in Pakistan. The entire country is depending on Sri Lanka,” he says.

“I then went ahead and started calling hospital after hospital, and we now have 39 facilities that we support. There are 5 states in Pakistan, like we have 50 states in the U.S.” Dr. Zafar is now coordinating distributing corneas to hospitals in all 5 states throughout Pakistan.

“Saving Sight has been so supportive and so helpful that it is just unreal,” he says. “I wanted to share with you that to date we have sent 3,574 corneas to Pakistan.” Several of these tissues have been distributed by Saving Sight. So far in 2021, Saving Sight has sent 43 tissues to Pakistan.

“The project was started by my two sisters who are doctors, one is a cardiologist in Dallas, and one is a hospitalist in Indianapolis, and me,” shares Dr. Zafar. “I am also a lifetime member of the Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America (APPNA). APPNA has about 6,000-7,000 members and I decided once we spread out, that we might be able to have more support if we contacted APPNA and brought this project under their umbrella, so that is what’s happened.”

Dr. Zafar and his sisters coordinate this process on a 100% voluntary basis. They raise funds among their family, friends, and colleagues to coordinate costs and shipments of the tissues with U.S. eye banks. The surgeons in Pakistan then perform the surgeries and post-operative care for free. Each of the hospitals are also government hospitals, meaning they do not charge the patients for their care.

Dr. Zafar personally calls each patient to make sure they were well-taken care of and to make sure no costs were incurred as well. Nearly all patients are underserved and are unable to pay for their healthcare needs.

The work of Dr. Zafar, the teams in Pakistan, and the involvement of U.S eye banks like Saving Sight, literally saves sight and changes the lives of these recipients. Without this work, they would not have access to care and would lead a life of corneal blindness.

“It would not have happened without Saving Sight’s help and without the other eye banks. You have made a huge impact on people’s lives,” says Dr. Zafar.

Dr. Zafar provided two videos of grateful corneal recipients in Pakistan.

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Vision Restored Thanks to Corneal Transplantation

This young man received a sight-restoring cornea transplant at the Quaid-E-Azam Medical College, Bahawalpur Pakistan thanks to the selfless gift of sight from a Saving Sight eye donor. Thank you to Dr. Fawad Zafar, surgeons in Pakistan, and the Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America for making this possible.

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The Gift of Sight Changes Lives in Pakistan

This young woman received a sight-restoring cornea transplant at the Quaid-E-Azam Medical College, Bahawalpur Pakistan thanks to the selfless gift of sight from a Saving Sight eye donor. Thank you to Dr. Fawad Zafar, surgeons in Pakistan, and the Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America for making this possible.

Melanie’s Legacy As An Eye Donor

Melanie’s Legacy As An Eye Donor

“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 cook, no one could come close to her meals, and she took great pride in that.

She loved shopping, she spent each Saturday wandering the aisles of Walmart. She was also an avid church goer, she attended every Sunday with her family. She had liked gardening in earlier years, and recently was obsessed with watching Wheel of Fortune. She knew the answers even before the contestants did,” shares Hannah.

Hannah says she and her mother had never talked about donation prior to her mother’s passing. “I was very familiar because I work in healthcare, but other than knowing we were each listed on our respective drivers licenses, we had never had a discussion about it.”

A Legacy Lives On

“Her legacy lives on especially in her grandchildren, who are currently learning to do acts of kindness so that her huge heart may live on. Regarding donation, I know her legacy is living in the people she has given new life, vision, and mobility too. Also the people who will benefit from the research she contributed too,” says Hannah.

“I was inspired to share our story, because I want to help others who are in a similar pain, understand that good does come eventually. I would just like people to know how missed she is, but how grateful we are that she was able to give to others.”

Here are two photos Hannah provided of her mother, Melanie; the second is a picture of her with Hannah’s son, her second oldest grandchild. It just shows perfectly what a wonderful Mimi she was.

Partnering in Humanitarian Efforts – Dr. Ukeme Umana

Partnering in Humanitarian Efforts – Dr. Ukeme Umana

Ukeme Umana, M.D., Refractive Surgery Specialist at the Laser Refractive Institute of the Marion, Illinois Eye Centers.

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 standing partner of Saving Sight. Dr. Umana is currently the Refractive Surgery Specialist directing the Laser Refractive Institute of the Marion, Illinois Eye Centers.

Each year, Dr. Umana travels to Nigeria 1-2 times to perform corneal and cataract surgeries. He has been involved in the medical eye mission trips there since 1991, providing basic vision care for those underserved in the area. “Since 2012, I have been performing formal transplants,” he says. “I also go to Liberia, where I perform mainly glaucoma, cataract, and pterygium surgeries. Due to COVID-19, trips to Liberia have been suspended.”

“The most recent trip was to Nigeria in March 2021 where I performed 16 PKP surgeries in 3 days. One patient was 10 years old,” he says.

While transplants are a large part of the mission trips, Dr. Umana also takes time to train local physicians. There’s a substantial shortage of physicians with training in corneal transplantation in the area and an even greater shortage of eye tissue.

Saving Sight provides Dr. Umana with the corneal tissue for his trips. “Saving Sight has been a strong partner for corneal work. There’s no eye bank in Nigeria,” he adds.

To put this into perspective, there are about 50 million people in the region but no corneal surgeries are offered because there is not an eye bank in the country.

[Photos from Dr. Umana’s March 2021 Nigeria trip. Left: 10 year old transplant recipient.]

 

Jeannette’s Legacy

Jeannette’s Legacy

 

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 a joy to be around with a ready smile and laugh. She enjoyed going to the Downtown Farmers’ Market with her grandmother, shopping on Amazon, bossing her little brother around and trying new vegan culinary delights. Jeannette was recently the recipient of a corneal transplant in March 2021 and she received the corneal tissue from Saving Sight. She was looking forward to seeing life in a new way.” – Gina Wells, Nette’s Aunt