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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.

Charitable Grants Secure Saving Sight’s Legacy of Giving

In 1960, Saving Sight began restoring sight through charitable vision programs, matching the needs of local communities with a spirit of giving. While our program delivery has changed throughout that history, our legacy of giving continues to grow through our mission partners.
In 2021, Saving Sight’s board of directors established a board-designated quasi-endowment fund to support grants given to charitable organizations with a similar mission. During the first round of funding in 2021, three organizations were invited to apply: KidSight, Mid-South Lions Sight and Hearing Service, Inc., and the ShowMe Eyeglass Recycling Program. Each group received funding from Saving Sight to expand their services and impact in the community.

KidSight, a program with a historical tie to Saving Sight, received the most funding, utilizing a $35,000 gift for general operating support to screen over 39,000 Missouri children for potential vision disorders. Of those children screened, 3,500 were identified to be at risk for problems like amblyopia. As part of their essential work, the KidSight team has established an enhanced follow-up process, helping families seek vision care for children as necessary.

Saving Sight also granted $15,000 in funding to the ShowMe Eyeglass Recycling Program, a nonprofit run by the Lions Clubs of District 26 M-7. This Missouri-based program serves as a collection point for recycled eyeglasses that are then read and sorted for use in medical mission trips worldwide. With grant funding, the group purchased two lensometers to read eyeglass prescriptions, a crucial part of preparing the donated glasses to go abroad. The Lions estimate that with this equipment purchase, they were able to serve 25,000 additional people worldwide.
Finally, Saving Sight granted $10,000 in funding to Mid-South Lions Sight and Hearing Services, a nonprofit out of Tennessee that provides medical services for needy vision-impaired people in our region. With funding from Saving Sight, the organization provided direct care to 16 patients from Missouri for various eye care and surgical costs. Upon reviewing reports from these three organizations, Saving Sight’s board of directors voted to renew grants in June 2023, adding one additional nonprofit to the mix. The following grants were made at the end of this fiscal year:

 
  • KidSight – $43,000
  • ShowMe Lions Eyeglass Recycling – $5,000
  • Mid-South Lions Sight and Hearing Services – $5,000
  • Missouri Lions Eye Mission Program – $7,000
 
 

 

Business Development Department Highlight

At Saving Sight, the Business Development Department is responsible for driving growth and creating new business opportunities for the organization. With its focus on both existing and new customers, the department plays a vital role in expanding the organization’s reach and impact in the field of cornea donation and transplantation. The department’s responsibilities include building and maintaining strong relationships with surgeons and stakeholders, identifying growth potential with existing customers, and recruiting new surgeons. By prioritizing both the acquisition and retention of surgeons, the team ensures a steady stream of business and works towards Saving Sight’s mission of changing lives by saving sight.

The Business Development Department consists of three members: Patrick Gore, Lynn Forest-Smith, and Kevin Wright. They work collaboratively to develop working relationships with surgeons, analyze business opportunities, conduct market research, and provide training and education to physicians, technicians, and support staff. In addition, they actively engage with university programs to foster strong relationships and participate in industry conferences to stay updated on innovation and best practices.

The team spends time visiting physicians, attending meetings, and conducting research to ensure they are well-prepared for discussions with doctors. Education is also a significant aspect of their work, as they stay informed about advancements in ophthalmology to better support their physician partners. The work of the Business Development Department is crucial to the success of Saving Sight. By serving as effective liaisons between the organization and its external stakeholders, they ensure collaboration and build lasting relationships with surgeons. Their role requires innovation and adaptability to stay relevant and competitive in a constantly changing market

Looking ahead, the department is excited about upcoming projects and events that aim to meet customer needs and further the organization’s mission. One notable project is the development of a Continuing Education (CE) program for nurses and surgery center staff. This online program will provide CE credits and simplify the process for staff to fulfill their educational requirements, elevating Saving Sight to new heights in eye banking.

Overall, the Business Development Department plays a vital role in driving growth and creating opportunities for both Saving Sight and Vital Tears. Through their dedicated efforts, they establish and nurture relationships with surgeons, identify new business avenues, and ensure the organization remains competitive and impactful in the field of cornea donation and transplantation.

Neal’s Restored Vision Provides New Clarity

Neal’s Restored Vision Provides New Clarity

Neal’s life took a transformative turn in April 2022 when he underwent a corneal transplant, bringing newfound hope and clarity to his world. Neal, a resident of Kansas City, suffered from Fuchs Dystrophy, a progressive eye condition that clouded his vision and limited his ability to perform daily tasks. However, the transplant changed everything.

Before the surgery, Neal’s vision was gradually deteriorating, making it increasingly challenging for him to carry out his work supporting his local parish. Since the transplant, Neal’s life has been transformed. He can now see with clarity. The transplant has restored not only his vision but also his independence and livelihood.

Neal’s journey is a testament to the power of medical advancements and the generosity of eye donors and their families. The cornea transplant not only restored his sight but also granted him the opportunity to continue doing what he loves.

IT Department Highlight

IT Team from left to right. Brandon, Jess, Andrew.

At Saving Sight, the IT department plays a crucial role in the success of the organization by providing reliable and efficient technology, cyber security training, and the knowledge to help keep the technology running. They are responsible for the support and upkeep of all technology components, while also keeping up with the latest advancements as they apply to Saving Sight. The department comprises a team of dedicated people who work together to ensure that all departments work seamlessly.

The IT Department is made up of three talented IT professionals: Brandon, Jess, and Andrew. Brandon, the Director of IT, and team leader is responsible for overseeing the database administration, vendor management, contracts, and services. He is also responsible for department employee management, project management, and application development. Jess, the IT Systems Administrator, is responsible for administering, implementing, and maintaining the security of all systems and platforms used by the organization. Andrew is the Desktop Support Technician and ensures that all equipment is functioning smoothly and efficiently day in and day out.

The day-to-day activities of the IT department are centered around problem-solving, with a mix of current projects, new projects, and individuals requiring support and ticketing assistance. The department’s role is largely reactive in responding to support tickets received. Yet it also operates proactively, staying ahead of the game and keeping up with new advancements. Documentation and content creation are important aspects of the IT department’s work, as they aim to maintain the current infrastructure and provide reliable equipment.

“Technology drives almost every process and procedure in the organization,” says Brandon, making the IT department’s role vital to the success of the mission. The department is involved at every level and works closely with other departments to ensure their technology needs are met and goals are achieved. The IT department’s goal is to act as a support system for other departments, providing technology solutions that align with their goals and strategies.

The biggest evolution in the IT department has been the shift towards data analysis and the handling of helpdesk support internally, instead of outsourcing. The IT Department enjoys the challenge of learning new things and helping people out, making the workday smoother and more productive. “If you like to solve problems, IT is the place for you,” says Brandon. They find satisfaction in finding solutions and making a difference in the organization.

In 2023, the IT department is placing a strong emphasis on cybersecurity. It is implementing policies and procedures to shore up its security foundation and conducting security training for all end-users through Ninjio, a cyber security training company. 96% of cyber attacks come from end-users, and the IT Department is making an effort to educate everyone within the organization on how to identify and report threats.

The IT department is a support system for the entire organization, providing reliable and efficient technology solutions that drive success. It is always working to stay ahead of the curve and provide the best possible services to the organization.

 

Transplant Recipient Begins 2023 With a New View

Transplant Recipient Begins 2023 With a New View

For months, Mike had been fighting an eye infection that just wouldn’t seem to go away. His eye doctor prescribed medicated drops, which seemed to help at first. However, the infection dug in deeper, and eventually, even administering the drops on an hourly basis wasn’t helping.

Mike spent much of 2022 battling the infection that began in April. After taking a trip to Europe in the fall, his vision became much worse. That’s when he received a consult to see Dr. Kenneth Goins at KU Eye Center. Almost immediately, Dr. Goins identified that Mike would need a corneal transplant to save his eyesight.

“I had no idea that I’d need a transplant-that was not even on my list. I was concerned because I hadn’t been able to see out of that eye for so long, and I knew the infection wasn’t responding to the treatment,” said Mike. “Frankly,I was thinking that there was a good chance that I was going to lose my sight, and it didn’t occur to me to think about a transplant.”

Immediately, Mike had questions about what it meant to be a corneal transplant recipient. Furthermore, it weighed on him knowing that his gift of sight would come from loss.

“I am fully aware that the cornea I received also means that someone lost their life, and a family and friends lost their loved one,” said Mike.“I’m deeply humbled by that and can’t really find anything adequate to say, so I will just leave it that they have my very very deepest gratitude for this gift. Without such profound generosity, I would certainly be losing my sight in that eye.”

On December 30, Mike underwent a corneal transplant procedure to save his sight. While he is still healing from the procedure and gradually regaining vision, his outlook is bright.As a CPA, an active member of his community, and a retired high school wrestling coach, Mike is looking forward to putting his new view to good use. He hopes to spend 2023 in partial retirement, enjoying more of his favorite activities, like scuba diving and traveling.

“It very much meant the world to me. I really had resigned to myself and was thinking about what it was going to be like to live with one eye,” said Mike.“I kept trying to comfort myself that, ‘you can still see with one eye; you can still make things work with one eye.’ But now, with this gift,I may not have to do that.”

Restored Vision Gives Funeral Home Director New View

Restored Vision Gives Funeral Home Director New View

As a funeral director, Diantha worked closely with the eye donation process for many years in her family’s funeral home. She often spoke with families whose loved ones had chosen to give the gift of sight, and therefore was very familiar with Saving Sight and its mission. As a proponent of donation, she’d often discussed the donation process with individuals when pre-planning a funeral. Diantha never guessed that years later, she’d benefit from the gifts of two eye donors.

Diantha, in the middle, pictured with her mother and husband.

During a regular eye exam in April 2021, she learned that she would need cataract surgery and had a hereditary eye disease called Fuchs’ dystrophy. For patients with Fuchs’, fluid builds up in the cornea, causing it to swell and thicken. Over time, this can lead to corneal blindness, discomfort, and pain. Diantha’s eye doctor informed her that the disease would likely progress and scheduled her to come back in a year.

Over the next year, her vision continued to degrade to the point where she could barely read and could no longer drive at night.

“The scariest incident I had was while driving alone from Atlanta, GA, to St. Louis,” Diantha recounts. “I miscalculated my time and the weather, and it was starting to get dark before I reached my niece’s hotel room in St. Louis. I literally could barely see road signs, and the car lights were blinding me, so I pulled off the nearest exit, pulled into a convenience store, and called my niece to come get me. I knew it was time to do something.”

In August 2022, Diantha underwent two consecutive corneal transplant surgeries to restore her vision. Both surgeries were successful in restoring her sight. Today, Diantha has resumed her normal day-to-day activities, including driving, reading, and enjoying the beauty in nature that had become a blur. The gifts that two cornea donors and their families gave are precious to her.

“Helping others is very important in life and very rewarding,” said Diantha. “Donation is such a gift to receive, but just as important, the donor family receives the gift of knowing someone has been helped through their donation.”

A Partnership to Save Sight in Nigeria

Since 1991, Dr. Ukeme Umana of Marion Eye Center has made annual humanitarian trips to Nigeria, providing much-needed eye care, and performing sight-saving surgeries. Most recently, Dr. Umana traveled to Nigeria in October 2022. During this trip, he saw many patients who normally would not have access to eye care and was able to perform cataract surgeries and several corneal transplants.

“In 2013, I started offering corneal transplants in addition to other surgeries,” recounts Dr. Umana. “People come from all over the country because there is no eye bank in Nigeria.”

This 5-year-old patient had scarring on his cornea and received a transplant to restore his sight.

Since that time, there has been a steady need for his services. Patients range in age and travel far to receive the sought-after care that Dr. Umana and the other volunteer doctors provide. During this most recent trip, Dr. Umana was able to help restore sight to a 7-year-old who needed cataract surgery and saw a variety of cases that resulted from infection and limited access to vision care.

For years, Saving Sight has provided Dr. Umana with tissue for his mission work, and during this most recent mission trip was the sole source of tissue. Dr. Umana’s work to reach underserved areas of the world like Nigeria extends Saving Sight’s mission beyond our local service area.

During his trips abroad, Dr. Umana also focuses on training local physicians as there is a shortage of doctors specializing in corneal transplantation. While time is short and the need is great, every opportunity to teach others is valuable and precious.

Dr. Umana expects that he will return to Nigeria again in the spring of 2023.

Honoring the Legacy of Ophthalmic Visionary Dr. Bruce Grene

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

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.

Eye Donation Month

A New View

Celebrating restored vision and life honored through the gift of eye donation!

Eye Donation Month | November 2023

Each year, Saving Sight joins the eye banking community in observing Eye Donation Month in November. Throughout the month, we concentrate our efforts on raising awareness about cornea donation and transplantation, honoring eye donors’ gifts, celebrating the work of our community partners in facilitating the git, and educating others on how to join the organ and tissue donor registry.

Join us this November in celebrating the new view that the gift of eye donation gives to both recipients and donor families.

Celebrating Champions of Sight!

This November, our team will recognize external partners who exhibit extraordinary dedication in making eye donation possible. Learn more about our Champion of Sight Award program, and how we plan to celebrate the community of individuals who aid in facilitating our sight-saving work.

You Can Help This November!

One of the many ways that you can support Saving Sight’s mission to change lives by saving sight is to help us raise awareness for the need for eye donation and help get others to join the organ and tissue donor registry! Whether it’s making a goal to get a group of friends to register online, or sharing a story on social media about the life-changing gift of eye donation, Saving Sight has got you covered with resources. 

Follow Saving Sight on Facebook at @WeSaveSight for stories to share all month long. And, when you’re on Facebook be sure to check out the Eye Bank Association of America’s profile picture frame commemorating Eye Donation Month. To access the profile picture frame just log into your personal Facebook account, click your profile picture and select “update profile picture” and then “add frame.” If you search for Eye Donation Month, you’ll find a special frame created just for November! Stay tuned to our social media feeds all month long for other extras like stickers and camera effects and how to use them!

Finally, please make sure that you are directing individuals to registerme.org as a call to action for them to sign up on the eye, organ and tissue donor registry! Their selfless decision may someday give others both life-changing and life-saving gifts.

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Living Life With a New View

Jack ‘Hydroplane’ Deloplaine might be best remembered as a Pittsburgh Steeler and a Superbowl champion. But to those who knew him, especially his family, he was much more. His final act of kindness was being a cornea donor.

This is his story, as told by his wife and two sons, brought to you by our partners at the Eye Bank Association of America.

Support the Mission

You can help us our quest to educate others about the life-changing gift of eye donation by purchasing our Eye Donation Month merchandise. Each image features the words of  donor families and transplant recipients about how eye donation has provided hope and healing in their lives.

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