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Honoring Chad: A Mother’s Tribute to Love and Legacy

Chad, a vibrant soul with a zest for life, left a mark on those who knew him. “He was a very happy person,” Linda fondly recalls. “He loved to have fun, joking and wrestling around.”

Tragically, Chad’s journey came to an end in January 2017 due to a car accident. Through her sorrow, Linda found peace in the opportunity to honor Chad’s memory through organ donation. Linda shares, “Chad would do anything he could to help somebody.” Chad’s selflessness manifested in his decision to register as an eye, organ, and tissue donor, a choice that would impact countless lives.

For Linda, Chad’s donation brought awareness and understanding. “I signed my driver’s license every time, knowing it was the right thing to do,” she says. “But I didn’t fully comprehend the extent of donation until Chad’s passing.” Through Midwest Transplant Network, Linda discovered the ripple effect of donation, extending far beyond organs to include tissues, bones, and corneas. “I had no idea that you could donate corneas or tissue,” she said. “It’s been eye-opening to learn how donation can touch so many lives.”

Chad’s legacy of giving continues to shine through an annual wiffleball tournament, a fitting tribute to his cherished childhood memories. Linda shares, “In September 2016, he was here with one of his kids and a couple of the other grandkids, and they were all outside playing wiffleball, and he said to me, ‘Mom, you know that this is my fondest memory growing up.’” Linda began to wonder what she could do to honor Chad and his legacy. “I didn’t want to do like the normal 5K because he didn’t run. I wanted it to be about him and came up with a wiffleball tournament.” What began as a small gathering with about eight teams on one field has blossomed into an annual community-wide event with 24 teams spread across four fields.

As Linda navigates grief and healing, she finds comfort in connecting with recipients of Chad’s gifts. From an elderly woman regaining mobility to a hiker conquering new heights, each story reaffirms the impact of eye, organ, and tissue donation.

In honoring Chad’s legacy, Linda embraces a message of resilience and hope. “His story is one of triumph and tragedy,” she reflects. “I choose to focus on the positive, carrying forward his spirit of giving with every letter, every conversation, and every act of kindness.” As Linda and her family continue to honor Chad’s memory, they invite others to join them on the journey of donation. “Chad gave 100% of what he could give,” Linda emphasizes. “His legacy lives on in the lives he touched, inspiring us all to embrace the gift of giving.” In commemorating Chad’s spirit of generosity, Linda reminds us that even in moments of loss, love endures, and the legacy of giving transcends time.

Meet Our Lion Ambassador of the Year Nominees!

Later this month, Saving Sight will announce its first Lion Ambassador of the Year at the Missouri Lions State Convention. We’ve received seven nominations for Lions doing amazing work in our service area. Nominations were accepted from current MD-26 District Governors, the MD-26 Council Chair, and Saving Sight’s board.

Lion Joann Pruitt, nominated by DG Marilynn Reaves
Lion Joann Pruitt of the Fort Leonard Wood Lions Club is a highly dedicated volunteer for her Lions club and her district. She’s served 1,661 people in 24 service activities, adding up to 110 service hours devoted to changing lives by saving sight. Perhaps the area most impacted by Lion Joann’s work is with our partner organization, KidSight. Lion Joann has screened over 1,000 children with the program, impacting the lives of children and families in her community.

Lion John Berger, nominated by DG Paul Carr
Lion John Berger’s impact resonates deeply throughout Missouri as a Kids Sight Volunteer. His commitment to children’s vision screening began years ago, igniting a mission to ensure no child falls through the cracks due to vision issues. From school screenings to district-wide advocacy, John tirelessly promotes Kids Sight, inspiring teams and volunteers to join the cause. His warmth and patience shine during screenings, easing children into what might be their first eye examination. John’s dedication extends beyond children, as he now extends his efforts to senior citizens at health fairs. His unwavering commitment to ensuring access to vision care for all ages exemplifies true service and compassion.

PDG Lyn Porterfield, nominated by DG Sherl Horton
PDG Lyn Porterfield’s passion for humanitarian service is evident through his instrumental role in establishing and participating in eye missions. His tireless efforts to set up and attend these missions have transformed his dream into reality, providing essential vision care across the state. Lyn’s dedication extends beyond mission logistics; he meticulously cleans and reads hundreds of glasses annually, ensuring resources are maximized to benefit those in need. His unwavering commitment to improving access to vision care embodies the spirit of Lionism. Lyn’s selfless service and enduring contributions to the community have left an indelible mark, earning him profound appreciation and admiration from colleagues and beneficiaries alike.

PDG Devin Struttmann, nominated by the Saving Sight board
PDG Devin Struttmann’s dedication to vision care extends far and wide. As a vital member of the Missouri Lions Eye Mission Foundation, Devin was pivotal in expanding their services beyond the United States to include missions within Missouri. While continuing missions abroad, his focus on local outreach ensures that communities in need receive vital vision care resources. Devin’s involvement with Saving Sight underscores his commitment to serving the less fortunate, evident through his active participation in his local Lions Club, district, and state Lions initiatives. His unwavering dedication to Saving Sight drives his involvement in vision care advocacy.

PCC Brad Baker, nominated by DG Phil Krebs
PCC Brad Baker epitomizes boundless service as CEO of MidSouth Lions Sight and Hearing Services since 1995. Recognized by the Saving Sight board and Missouri Lions, his impact extends worldwide. Covering MO-AR-MS-West TN, Brad ensures access to eye care regardless of financial constraints. Guided by the mission “A Miracle a Day,” he aligns MidSouth Lions’ mission with Saving Sight’s goal of “Changing Lives by Saving Sight.” From organizing Cataract-A-Thons for dozens to facilitating care for individuals worldwide, Brad’s devotion to preserving and enhancing sight shines through. Collaborating with Baptist Memorial Hospital and the Hamilton Eye Institute, his tireless dedication to improving lives through vision care reflects a profound commitment to humanitarian service.

PDG Bill Foglesong, nominated by CC Harold Spire
PDG Bill Foglesong embodies the essence of altruism and dedication in promoting eye health and preventing blindness. His commitment shines brightly through volunteering at Donor Days at Walgreens, where his tireless efforts make a tangible impact on the community. Moreover, PDG Bill’s altruism extends beyond his contributions as he actively involves his wife, Lisa, in this vital cause. Together, they have participated in raising a Leader Dog puppy and have generously volunteered their time and expertise, amplifying the impact of their efforts.

PDG Mark Schaeperkoetter, nominated by DG Ed Bierbower
PDG Mark Schaeperkoetter’s dedication to children’s vision health is evident through his recent screening of 60 third and fourth-grade students at Eldon Lower Elementary. His proactive approach ensures early detection and intervention for potential eye issues, with seven children referred to an optometrist for further evaluation. PDG Mark and Lion Judy’s ongoing commitment to screening young school children across mid and southern Missouri highlights their selfless dedication to community service. Through their efforts, they contribute significantly to the well-being of children, potentially averting severe eye problems in the future. Mark’s passion for ensuring every child receives the care they need underscores his exemplary leadership and humanitarian spirit within the Lions community.

Effects of Eye Bank Donor Age Expansion on Corneal Endothelial Cell Density and Surgeon Tissue Acceptance

Dr. Ayobami Adebayo

Dr. Ayobami Adebayo

Dr. Roy Chuck

Dr. Roy Chuck

In recent years, advancements in medical research have pushed the boundaries of what was once considered feasible in the field of ophthalmology. One such study observed the effect of the expansion of eye bank donor age on corneal endothelial cell density and surgeon acceptance rate of those tissues. Donor characteristics, endothelial cell density, and acceptance of tissues for use in surgery were compared between age groups in five-year intervals. The aim was clear: to assess how this expansion would influence the availability of corneal tissue for transplantation and challenge existing biases against older donors. Saving Sight was proud to partner with Dr. Roy Chuck and Ayobami Adebayo, among other researchers, to provide the corneal tissue used during this study.

This single-site study featured 25,969 corneas from eye bank donors from 2018 – 2022 between the ages of 2 and 75. At the beginning of 2022, the donor age limit was increased to 80 years old, thus allowing donated tissue from older donors to be used in transplants. The age limit increase allowed 411 more cornea donations, which led to 208 more transplants. The average endothelial cell density for the 71-75 age group was 2,349 cells/mm2, compared to 2227 cells/mm2 in donors aged 76-80. The difference of 122 cells/mm2 doesn’t seem like much, but the study saw that donors aged 71-75 had a 38% surgeon rejection rate, while those aged 76-80 had a 48% surgeon rejection rate.

There could be multiple reasons for the difference in surgeon rejection rate, but one could be age bias. Traditionally, corneas that come from older donors are looked at as not viable, but this study showed that corneas from older donors are still very viable for transplant. While there isn’t a shortage of corneas for transplant in the United States, there is a global shortage, resulting in patients in other countries waiting on the transplant list for months.

“If we can expand the age pool to increase and even get some more donations, that will increase transplants,” Adebayo said. “And I think there’s just a lot more room for growth in that area.

This study is important for the future of ophthalmology and eye banks because there is a cornea shortage in other countries. By increasing the donor age limit, more corneas will be available for transplant globally. Expanding the donor age limit and using those tissues in surgery can give the gift of sight to many more people in need across the globe. Potential age bias isn’t the only factor in the difference in surgeon rejection rate, but it does show that more work needs to be done.

So, no matter what you do, there’s still a bias against age and many things that we do in life, and that bias never disappears,” Chuck said. “…We can do one of two things. We can work to death to change everyone’s mind just by talking to them. It’s very difficult to do, and it’s much easier for us to generate data, and that’s what we’re doing. That’s the whole basis of research, you know, change thought by proving it with data.

As researchers navigate the complexities of eye, organ, and tissue donation and transplantation, they remain committed to ensuring equitable access to sight-restoring treatments for all. Increasing the donor age limit will increase viable donor tissue for transplant, allowing those in underserved areas to receive the gift of sight. The journey to redefine how corneal donations are handled isn’t solely about science; it’s a moral duty with the chance to change lives by saving sight.

Visionary Journeys: A Cornea Surgeon’s Mission to Bring Vision to the World

Visionary Journeys: A Cornea Surgeon’s Mission to Bring Vision to the World

At Saving Sight, our vision is to be the global partnership model for how eye banking and charitable vision services can most effectively serve people and communities. This standard we hold ourselves to has guided us to over 60 years of excellence in eye banking. We wouldn’t be able to change lives by Saving Sight without the support and dedication of our corneal surgeon partners. One corneal surgeon partner has a history of Saving Sight in the United States and globally.

Sara Krachmalnick, Senior Ophthalmology Resident at KU, Dr. Ben Roberts, Ophthalmology Specialist at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya, and Dr. Miles Greenwald, Ophthalmology Specialist

Sara Krachmalnick, Senior Ophthalmology Resident at KU, Dr. Ben Roberts, Ophthalmology Specialist at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya, and Dr. Miles Greenwald, Ophthalmology Specialist

Dr. Miles Greenwald started at the University of Kansas Medical Center in September 2023, focusing on corneal surgeries and comprehensive eye care. Before KU, Dr. Greenwald completed a one-year cornea fellowship before participating in a Global Ophthalmology Fellowship at the University of Michigan. The Global Ophthalmology Fellowships aims to build skills and relationships with different hospitals and clinics in the developing world. Often, there are fewer professionals, nurses, and technicians, and their resources are a lot less.
Dr. Greenwald spent seven months of that year traveling to different countries, working with the local ophthalmologists to determine how best to provide eye care. Dr. Greenwald spent time in India, Rwanda, Honduras, and two places in Kenya.

Just a few months ago, Greenwald traveled back to Kenya on a mission trip to save sight and teach and train the next generation of corneal surgeons. Coming out of the Global Ophthalmology Fellowship, he knew he wanted to work in an academic ophthalmology department, and that is what KU provided.

Sara Krachmalnick, Senior Ophthalmology Resident at KU, and Dr. Miles Greenwald, Ophthalmology Specialist

“I knew that I wanted to work with residents and medical students and be involved in training and teaching the next generation how to be good ophthalmologists and doctors. I’ve been very fortunate throughout my training to have learned from just amazing, amazing people and have mentors who have devoted so much to training me and helping me be the best that I can be. And so, I wanted to be involved in that as part of my career,” Greenwald said.

Before his trip, Greenwald connected with the ophthalmologist in Kenya and discussed what he could do and what the resident could do to be most helpful. The ophthalmologist said that people are on the waiting list for cornea transplants. After hearing this, Greenwald connected with Saving Sight to see how we could partner with him and save sight.

“Saving Sight was super supportive. They just said to tell us the details. How can we help logistically? How can we help get these patients taken care of? How many tissues would be helpful?” Greenwald said.

In a week, Greenwald and the team completed 12 corneal transplants with tissue provided by Saving Sight. Patients ranged in age from as young as 20 to patients in their 60s. “One of the crucial pieces for collaborations in corneal transplants is the lifelong care that is needed… I can trust Dr. Ben Roberts and his team at the eye hospital that when we do the surgery during that one time period, he and his team are there year-round and are able to care for the patients and do all the post-op care for the transplants,” Greenwald said.

Eye banking is something we take for granted here in the United States. Kenya only has one eye bank, which only processes a little tissue. It is difficult, if not impossible, for physicians in Kenya to get tissue from that eye bank.

“So, working with Saving Sight to have the tissues for the trip would be impossible without Saving Sights support. It makes it possible to restore vision for these patients and to try and give them their livelihood and their lives back,” Greenwald said.

Greenwald says the support he and other doctors within different specialties receive from leadership at KU has been invaluable in making his dream a reality.

“I’m excited for it to continue to build and become kind of a regular thing for the faculty and the residents to be involved in,” Greenwald said.

He plans a trip to Honduras, where he will work with a few ophthalmology surgical fellows, teaching them how to do some advanced surgeries, including corneal transplants and glaucoma surgery. The goal of his trip to Honduras is not for him to do another corneal transplant but to help the young surgeons learn how to do it for themselves.

Corneal blindness is a problem everywhere in the world. It’s estimated that about 4 million people worldwide are legally blind from corneal blindness.

“That number can be easily daunting, and I think we can get numb to it when there are statistics like that. Each of those people has a life dramatically affected by the lack of vision. Being able to partner with Saving Sight to do these surgeries and provide the appropriate follow-up care and post-operative management for each patient and to be able to help restore their sight and regain their life is rewarding.”

Kathy’s Journey of Restored Sight Through Transplantation

Kathy’s Journey of Restored Sight Through Transplantation

Kathy’s journey to restored sight began after her cataract surgery in the fall of 2023. The procedure that she expected would improve her vision did not deliver the results that she was expecting and led to the discovery of underlying vision issues.

“After my cataract surgery, everyone kept asking me, have you seen the bright lights? Have you seen the bright colors? And I was like…no,” Kathy recounted.

After surgery, swelling persisted in her cornea, and her physician, Dr. Ketcherside, explained that she had Fuchs corneal dystrophy. Fuchs dystrophy is a disease that affects the innermost layer of cells in the cornea. Oftentimes, it is not diagnosed until later in life, and many patients require a cornea transplant to restore clear vision. For Kathy, the answer to restored sight would be the gift of cornea donation and transplantation from two eye donors.

Transplant recipient, Kathy

Kathy is so grateful for the gift of restored sight from her donors.

While Kathy was anxious about the surgery, Dr. Ketcherside explained the procedure, reassuring her that it was safe and generally successful. With a newfound sense of hope, Kathy received her first partial-thickness corneal transplant on her right eye in October and a second of the same type of transplant on her left eye in November. In a partial-thickness transplant, only a thin layer of cells that have stopped working in the recipient’s cornea are replaced with donor tissue. The result for many patients is a less invasive procedure, and quicker healing time.

When the stitches came out from her first transplant, Kathy experienced a remarkable change while watching television.

“All of a sudden, the black and whites were just brighter on the show we were watching on television,” said Kathy. “The other eye was more like looking through a light sepia color.”

Since receiving her transplants, Kathy has resumed hobbies like quilting and enjoys more daily independence. Before her surgeries, Kathy would rely on her husband, Steve, to read small print and drive. Now, she and Steve are back to some of their favorite time together, watching the night sky.

“My husband and I like to watch meteors,” said Kathy. “I was having trouble pinpointing the smaller stars and planets. After the transplant, we saw a big meteor at the same time, and it was a ‘woah’ moment.”

Kathy is grateful for the gifts of sight that her donors have given to her.

“It’s just been a miracle,” remarked Kathy. “It’s just opened up a whole new world.”

Unleashing Potential Through the Emerging Leaders Leadership Program

Unleashing Potential Through the Emerging Leaders Leadership Program

Photos of graduating class

Emerging Leaders Graduates – Class of 2023

Just before the holiday season, the third Emerging Leaders class kicked off, with its participants eager to develop a wide variety of skills and knowledge.  The Emerging Leaders Program is a 6-month development program that is intended to help prepare future Saving Sight leaders in the principles of leadership, strategy, and relational impact. During the program, participants will dive deep into topics such as leadership guiding principles, difficult conversations, data analytics, and communications, just to name a few.

This program is meant to develop future leaders, whether they are future leaders at Saving Sight or somewhere else down the road. The growth and development of new leaders are beneficial to everyone involved in Emerging Leaders. By focusing on leadership development, Saving Sight creates a culture that values learning and continuous improvement. Investing in leadership development ensures a pipeline of skilled and capable leaders. This, in turn, contributes to the overall success and sustainability of Saving Sight. Class participants gain new knowledge and skillsets while growing in their leadership abilities. Meanwhile, current leaders can share their experience and knowledge with emerging leaders, facilitating the transfer of institutional wisdom and organizational values. “It’s a rewarding experience, and I really enjoyed it. You’ll find that you’ll get out of it exactly what you put in,” says Mark Wood, a Client Services Specialist at Saving Sight and recent graduate of the Emerging Leaders Program.

While there were quite a few applications to the program, only a few were selected. A selection committee of current leaders at Saving Sight met and decided who would be in the third class of emerging leaders.

Bi-weekly sessions will immerse participants in a wide array of subjects, such as the Guiding Principles of Leadership, Time Management, and Emotional intelligence. Experts from the leadership team present their areas of expertise, sparking in-depth discussions.

The Emerging Leaders Program at Saving Sight stands as a catalyst for developing the leaders of tomorrow. As the third class starts its journey, the program’s focus on leadership principles, strategy, and relational impact provides a comprehensive foundation for future leaders. The commitment to continuous improvement and knowledge transfer between current and emerging leaders fosters a culture of growth within the organization. With bi-weekly sessions immersing participants in diverse subjects and hands-on experiences, the program ensures not only the growth of knowledge but also the practical application of leadership skills.

2023 Impact Report

2023 Impact Report

2023 Impact Report

We worked to save sight for more individuals than ever during our 2022-2023 fiscal year! Check out our Impact Report to learn how we’re helping our community.

Transplant Recipient’s Vision Twice Renewed

Transplant Recipient’s Vision Twice Renewed

ScottHagerty photo

Scott pictured with his wife

Scott’s journey to restored vision began on a farm in central Kansas when he was 19. After unloading grain from storage bins, Scott noticed that his left eye had swollen shut. Scott eventually found his way to Dr. Bruce Grene in Wichita, Kansas where he was treated for bacterial infections, which offered some improvements. Shortly after that Scott was diagnosed with Acanthamoeba Keratitis, a rare infection of the eye. After the infection was treated Scott received his first cornea transplant. The surgery went smoothly, and Scott regained his vision, which remained stable for the next 20 years. Scott was on a tennis scholarship when he received his first cornea transplant, and he said, “The experience of going from playing sports to facing the uncertainty of vision loss had been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride.” Scott was able to see 20/20 uncorrected out of his left eye for nearly 20 years and for a few years after, his vision was corrected by glasses. Since the transplant, many of his optometrists have enjoyed the opportunity to work with his unique circumstances.

Life took an unexpected turn when Scott was involved in a car accident in January of 2023 that resulted in damage to the cornea, lens, and iris of his left eye. This accident led to an emergency cornea transplant performed by Dr. Farhat and his team in Kansas City. Scott praised the expertise of both Dr. Bruce Grene in Wichita and Dr. Farhat in Kansas City, highlighting the crucial roles they played in his journey to sight restoration, many years apart.

Scott’s story not only underscores the enduring human spirit but also the importance of organ, eye, and tissue donation. Scott emphasized the significance of having tissues readily available, contrasting the past when waiting was the norm and he expressed gratitude for the advances in medical science that allow him and countless others to see again.

“I have been the lucky one to have lost vision to both disease and trauma. I have also been fortunate enough to have had it restored via a transplant, and the prognosis is good that we will soon have it returned as I continue to heal from my second,” says Scott. Scott’s story highlights the impact of organ and tissue donation on saving lives and providing hope to individuals facing vision loss. As his journey continues, Scott remains an inspiring example of resilience.


The Importance of EBAA Accreditation

The Importance of EBAA Accreditation

Established in 1981, the EBAA (Eye Bank Association of America) Accreditation is an important benchmark for excellence within the world of eye banking. This accreditation holds the seal of approval from several reputable federal agencies, including the FDA and CDC, signifying its importance in the field. EBAA Accreditation ensures the consistent safety and quality of ocular tissue by enforcing adherence to meticulously outlined medical standards, which are endorsed by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. It is a testament to an eye bank’s commitment to upholding the highest standards.

The accreditation process is meticulous and entails a comprehensive review of various aspects of eye bank operations, policies, and personnel. A distinctive feature of EBAA Accreditation is the involvement of a dedicated team comprising an experienced eye banker and a corneal surgeon. This team undertakes site visits every three years, evaluating donor records, standard operating procedures, tissue documentation, and administrative records. They observe tissue recovery and processing techniques, thus ensuring a comprehensive evaluation of the eye bank’s practices.

The inspection results are presented before the EBAA’s Accreditation Board, a group of seasoned professionals within the field. Their deliberations determine whether an eye bank earns accreditation, requires corrective action, or faces potential revocation of status. This rigorous evaluation underscores the significance of the EBAA Accreditation as an emblem of excellence, which directly impacts the safety and quality of the ocular tissues utilized in transplantation surgeries.

EBAA Accreditation signifies a commitment to safety and quality and an unwavering dedication to the well-being of patients. It establishes a standard of excellence that fortifies confidence among medical professionals and patients alike. By fostering consistent adherence to the highest medical standards, the accreditation program ensures the preservation of ocular tissue quality, elevating the pursuit of restoring vision through transplantation.

A Transplant Becomes an Opportunity for Regained Sight

A Transplant Becomes an Opportunity for Regained Sight

For years, Karie of Kansas City, MO, suffered from reduced vision in her right eye after a bout with shingles while on chemotherapy. She was left with scarring from the shingles on her eye that impacted her vision and resulted in corneal blindness. At first, she was told that she would not be a candidate for sight restoration through a transplant. However, nearly a decade after first dealing with the vision loss, Karie received a second opinion her ophthalmologist who suggested that she’d benefit from undoing a transplant.

“I wanted to make sure that the transplant would be a success,” said Karie. “I took it very seriously. I didn’t want to take someone’s cornea and have it not work.”

Regained sight has brought so many opportunities for Karie to celebrate with her growing family.

In December 2022, Karie received the gift of a corneal transplant. She recognizes the ultimate gift that was made by a donor had special meaning for her.

“I know that it has to be very hard to lose a family member at all, especially at the holiday,” said Karie. “I would like to do something in this person’s honor. Go somewhere, see something, eat something they liked, or do something they did.”

Post-transplant, Karie’s experienced so many improvements in her sight and quality of life. She is growing closer to driving again and now very infrequently uses a mobility cane for assistance.

“I could see some kinds of shapes and colors, but I could never really figure out what it was,” said Karie. “Now I have peripheral vision again, and they think I may be back to eventually to 20/20 vision.”

Perhaps most importantly, Karie is looking forward to seeing the face of her first-born grandchild this November. Clear vision to see his face and enjoy the sights of a newborn will be priceless for Karie and her family.

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