Retired Judge Gary Schmidt Shares His Story as a Corneal Transplant Recipient

Retired Judge Gary Schmidt Shares His Story as a Corneal Transplant Recipient

April was National Donate Life month and Saving Sight took part in numerous celebrations in Missouri, Kansas and Illinois to help spread awareness about the impact of organ, eye and tissue donation.

On April 9th, Saving Sight was honored to take part in Donor Family Recognition Day at the Missouri State Capitol. During the event, donor families were honored by the Governor and were also introduced on the House floor. We also had the great privilege of having one of our cornea recipients, retired Judge Gary Schmidt, speak at the event to share about the impact corneal transplantation has had on his life.

Schmidt finds it very meaningful to speak at events like this. “It gives me an opportunity to express my gratitude to the families of donors of all types. Donors have done so much to improve the lives, perhaps save the lives of others. It is a privilege to say ‘Thank you!’ I’m not able to find the words to adequately express the debt of gratitude we owe them.”

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Watch Retired Judge Gary Schmidt Share His Story at Donor Family Recognition Day at the Missouri State Capitol

“Donors have done so much to improve the lives, perhaps save the lives of others. It is a privilege to say ‘Thank you!’ I’m not able to find the words to adequately express the debt of gratitude we owe them.”

Gary Schmidt, Cornea Recipient

After the event, Judge Schmidt followed up with Saving Sight to discuss his experience in further detail:

Saving Sight: Judge Schmidt, can you tell us about your experience with corneal transplantation?

Schmidt: What I remember most is the fear. When my corneas both went bad at the same time, I was almost completely blind. It happened in a few short days, and I wasn’t prepared for the possibility I might be sightless for the rest of my life.

Saving Sight: What caused you to require a transplant?

Schmidt: My corneas both failed from a combination of diabetes, age and bad genes.

Saving Sight: What was your transplant experience like?

Schmidt: Unfortunately, it didn’t go smoothly. Dr. Leutkemeyer elected to do my left eye first and, after being placed, the graft moved out of position. It took several trips to surgery before the graft took and held. The right eye went much more smoothly, and I was seeing quite well within a few days.

Saving Sight: Did you have a connection to organ, eye and tissue donation prior to your transplant?

Schmidt: When I was first out of law school, an old high school classmate took on a project of signing up many bone marrow transplant donors. I was one of her targets. The idea didn’t take much selling; registering as a bone marrow donor might save a life. So I registered, and got an immediate preliminary match. Unfortunately further testing showed we were not compatible. Ultimately, several of my high school classmates did indeed donate bone marrow.

Saving Sight: What’s something you learned about the donation process through your experience?

Schmidt: I am constantly amazed at the things that may be donated, both while the donor is living and postmortem.

Saving Sight: What is something you’d like others to know about the process?

Schmidt: I would hope that everyone is aware of how much donation can change the world for a person, for a family. In my case, my donor gave me the gift of sight. Some donors are able to save lives.

Saving Sight: What are some things you enjoy to do and are able to do now that your sight is restored?

Schmidt: If I couldn’t see, I’d be a huge burden to my family. The gift of sight gives me independence, and keeps me from being a burden to them. I can now do all the things I enjoy, including going to high school football games and reading. It was always my dream to spend retirement reading all the things I never had time to read when I was working full time.

Saving Sight: What caused you to write to your donor family through our Correspondence Program?

Schmidt: Considering what my donor did for me, how could I not try and express my gratitude for their relative that did so much for me? In my case, I hope they are proud of the very good things their donor was able to accomplish. They should be very proud of him.

Saving Sight: Why is speaking at events like Donor Day at the Capitol meaningful to you as a cornea recipient?

Schmidt: It gives me an opportunity to express my gratitude to families of donors of all types. Donors have done so much to improve lives, perhaps save the lives of others. It is a privilege to say “Thank you!” I’m not able to find the words to adequately express the debt of gratitude we owe them.

Saving Sight: Is there anything else about your experience you would like to mention?

Schmidt: I think it must be incredibly satisfying to work with an agency (Saving Sight) that does so much good. Before my eyes failed I was vaguely aware that someone must be tending to such things. Now I can put smiling faces to some of the people who are doing such incredible work.

 

New Findings Shed Light on Donor Cornea Storage Solutions

New Findings Shed Light on Donor Cornea Storage Solutions

Dr. Dan Polla, ARVO 2019

Previous studies in the field of corneal transplantation have determined the importance of endothelial cell density in the health of corneal tissue grafts in terms of graft success rate. According to new research presented this week at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) in Vancouver, differences in the storage media solutions can have an effect on endothelial cell density.

Through the study, a retrospective analysis was conducted on a donor database from the Kansas City-based nonprofit Saving Sight to compare eye bank donor corneal endothelial cell density (ECD) after storage in Optisol GS and Life4°C solutions. The data analyzed included 24,581 donated eye bank corneas from 2011 through 2017 stored in Optisol GS or Life4°C solutions.

This project was led by Daniel Polla, MD, Ophthalmology Resident at Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, in collaboration with Saving Sight.

“My project looks at the different storage media solutions that donor corneas were stored in from 2011 to 2017 at Saving Sight. The preliminary findings demonstrate a small difference in endothelial cell density after storage in Optisol GS or Life4°C, with a higher ECD after storage in Optisol GS. The differences found between donor corneas in each of the storage media groups may be due to factors that were not accounted for over time such as changes in processing protocols, equipment used to measure ECD, and variability in specular microscopy. While it is possible that Optisol GS better preserves the endothelium, one potential cause for the small difference in ECD between groups is variation in endothelial cell visualization during specular microscopy due to differences in solution color,” said Dr. Polla.

“This research is important to the field of ophthalmology and corneal transplantation because it may influence the way that corneas are stored and/or evaluated prior to transplantation, ultimately leading to better graft success rates and outcomes for patients.” Dr. Polla added.

Saving Sight Chief Business Development Officer Patrick Gore, RN, CEBT, Director of Business Development Lynn Forest-Smith, and Chief Operating Officer Tina Livesay were co-authors on the study. As an eye bank that facilitates eye donation for transplant and research, the Saving Sight team is proud to support this project and to work in collaboration with Montefiore and Drs. Polla, Rand and Chuck.

“We collect a large amount of data on all of our donor cases and corneas as a part of normal operations. This was a great opportunity to have these data parameters analyzed collectively for this study. As an eye bank, this allows us to help researchers advance the field of corneal transplantation to help honor the gift of sight through better recipient outcomes,” said Tina Livesay, Saving Sight Chief Operating Officer.

This study highlights the importance of collaboration between eye banks, medical centers and researchers in advancing the fields of corneal transplantation and ophthalmology.

 

Abstract: 

An analysis of donor corneas stored in Optisol GS and Life4°C solutions

Authors: Daniel J. Polla MD, Gabriel M. Rand MD, Patrick K. Gore RN CEBT, Lynn Forest-Smith CEBT, Tina Livesay CEBT, Roy S. Chuck MD PhD

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Research Findings - ARVO 2019

Dan Polla, MD, Ophthalmology resident at Montefiore Medical Center, details his latest research study with Saving Sight that he will present at ARVO 2019.

New Findings Presented on Factors Associated with DMEK Processing Damage

New Findings Presented on Factors Associated with DMEK Processing Damage

Dr. Gabriel Rand – ARVO 2019

According to new research presented this week at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) in Vancouver, several potential risk factors, including donor diabetes mellitus, can lead to damage during Descemet Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty processing.

There are limited studies identifying risk factors for damage when processing Descemet Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty (DMEK), which has a high processing failure rate as compared to Descemet Stripping Automated Endothelial Keratoplasty (DSAEK). Through a study with lead researcher Gabriel Rand, MD, second year ophthalmology resident at Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Saving Sight, an analysis of potential risk factors was performed. Collaborative research partner, Saving Sight performs a high volume of DMEK processing.

Through the study, a retrospective analysis was completed with logistic regressions on all 385 DMEK tissues processed from 319 eligible donors at Saving Sight from July 2014 to June 2017. The study concluded that eye bank DMEK processing has significant rates of damage and risk factors for processing failure including donor diabetes mellitus, individual technician ability and the technician learning curve.

“Myself, Dr. Chuck and a bunch of us here at Montefiore have been working with Saving Sight to prepare an abstract for ARVO this year,” said Dr. Rand. “The topic of the abstract is the effect that donor diabetes status has on the corneal transplant quality. This is a really important subject because diabetes is a disease that is increasing in prevalence every year and it’s a multisystem disease – it affects every single part of the body, the cornea notwithstanding. There’s really not a tremendous amount of literature on what the potential influences that donor diabetes status has on these cornea transplant tissues. So what our contribution is, is to add to the fund of knowledge and to really examine does a donor diabetes status affect endothelial cell health, does it affect preparation failure rates, things like this, so it’s been a really exciting research project for us.”

Saving Sight Chief Business Development Officer Patrick Gore, RN, CEBT, Director of Business Development Lynn Forest-Smith, and Chief Operating Officer Tina Livesay were co-authors on the study. As an eye bank that facilitates eye donation for transplant and research, the Saving Sight team is proud to support this project and to work in collaboration with Montefiore and Drs. Rand and Chuck.

“It is a privilege for me to work with such a devoted team at Montefiore who want to advance the science of ophthalmology,” said Lynn Forest-Smith, Director of Business Development at Saving Sight. “I have a real passion for the work we do at Saving Sight and teaming up with these folks allows us to take our findings back to the eye banks, apply what we learn to improve our services and ultimately, help more people see.”

This collaborative study helps advance the fields of corneal transplantation and ophthalmology between eye banks, medical centers and researchers and helps identify factors that contribute to better grafts and better outcomes for patients.

Abstract:

Factors associated with eye bank descemet membrane endothelial keratoplasty processing damage

Authors: Gabriel M. Rand MD, Patrick K. Gore RN CEBT, Lynn Forest-Smith CEBT, Tina Livesay CEBT, Roy S. Chuck MD PhD

 

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Research Findings - ARVO 2019

Gabriel Rand, MD, second-year Ophthalmology resident at Montefiore Medical Center, gives an overview of his recent research collaboration with Saving Sight for ARVO 2019

Connect with Saving Sight at ESCRS 2018

Connect with Saving Sight at ESCRS 2018

Patrick Gore at the 2016 ESCRS conference in Copenhagen.

Lets’s connect at  ESCRS 2018!

Our Saving Sight team is excited to be back at the annual European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons (ESCRS) Congress September 22-26, 2018.  We’d love the opportunity to connect with ophthalmologists, surgeons and other eye care professionals while there. Patrick Gore, Chief Business Development Officer at Saving Sight, will be at ESCRS and looks forward to hearing how Saving Sight can best suit your ocular needs in a simple and convenient way. Please reach out to Patrick Gore soon to coordinate a time to connect at the conference.

We look forward to an enriching conference in Vienna!

For additional information: Patrick Gore, Chief Business Development Officer, 816.255.1337

 

 

Meet Us in St. Louis for a DMEK Wet Lab

Meet Us in St. Louis for a DMEK Wet Lab

 

Meet Us in St. Louis for a DMEK Wet Lab

Join Saving Sight in St. Louis on June 2nd for a comprehensive DMEK wet lab with experienced surgeons. The day will include a full morning of didactics and videos followed by a live demonstration of the procedure and the wet lab. Lecturers will cover the DMEK procedure from start to finish and work with you one-on-one to practice the technique. The final day to register is May 17!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Bausch & Lomb Surgical

3365 Tree Court Industrial Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63122

 

Meet the Wet Lab Faculty

Mark A. Greiner, MD, Instructor & Lab Facilitator

Dr. Mark A. Greiner

Mark A. Greiner, MD, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine

Dr. Mark Greiner is Associate Medical Director and Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.

After completing his medical degree and residency in ophthalmology at the University of California at Davis, he completed his fellowship training in Cornea and External Diseases with Mark Terry at Devers Eye Institute in Portland, Oregon. Since joining the faculty at Iowa, Dr. Greiner has pursued his interests in eye banking and endothelial keratoplasty. He currently serves as Associate Medical Director at the Iowa Lions Eye Bank and is a clinician-scientist with a translational research laboratory that focuses on corneal endothelial cell metabolic function and keratoplasty outcomes. Dr. Greiner authored many publications including chapter 131, Surgical Technique of DMEK in the 4th edition of Cornea: Fundamentals, Diagnosis and Management. Read more about Dr. Greiner’s background here.

Shahzad I. Mian, MD, Instructor & Lab Facilitator

Dr. Shahzad I. Mian

Shazad I. Mian, MD, University of Michigan Medical School

Shahzad I. Mian, M.D., is the Terry J. Bergstrom Collegiate Professor for Resident Education in Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. He also serves the Department as Associate Chair for Education and is an associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences the University of Michigan Medical School. Dr. Mian earned his medical degree in 1996 from the Emory University School of Medicine. He then completed a residency at the Wills Eye Hospital of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. From 2000-02, he was a fellow in cornea and refractive surgery at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. He joined the U-M faculty in 2002 as a clinical lecturer in ophthalmology and visual sciences, and he was promoted to associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences in 2010. He has served on the board of directors and as a medical director of the Midwest Eye-Banks and currently serves as cornea editor for the Ophthalmic News and Education Network, board member of the Cornea Society, member of the Program Director’s Council and councillor for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Read more about Dr. Mian’s background here. 

 

 

Geoffrey Hill, MD, Lab Facilitator

Geoffrey Hill, MD, Hill Vision Services

Geoffrey Hill, MD is a cornea specialist and partner at Hill Vision Services in St. Louis, Missouri. Dr. Hill received his undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of Missouri Columbia and received his medical doctorate from St. Louis University. He completed his ophthalmology residency at the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County in Chicago, Il and a fellowship in Cornea and Ocular Surface Disease at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas. Dr. Hill is a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons. Read more about Dr. Hill’s background here.

 

Marriott St. Louis West

660 Maryville Centre Drive
St. Louis, MO 63141

Hilton St. Louis Frontenac

1335 S. Lindbergh Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 631311

Marriott St. Louis West

Hilton St. Louis Frontenac

Connect with Saving Sight at ESCRS 2017

Lets’s connect at ESCRS 2017!

Our Saving Sight team is excited to be back at the annual European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons (ESCRS) Congress October 7-11, 2017. We’d love the
opportunity to connect with ophthalmologists, surgeons and other eye care professionals while there. Patrick Gore, Chief Business Development Officer at Saving Sight, will be at ESCRS and looks forward to hearing how Saving Sight can best suit your ocular needs in a simple and convenient way. Please reach out to Patrick
Gore soon to coordinate a time to connect at the conference.

We look forward to an enriching conference in Lisbon!

For additional information: Patrick Gore, Chief Business Development Officer, 816.255.1337.