Corneal transplants give hope to the blind

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 24, 2003

Corneal transplants can offer the gift of sight for people with extremely poor vision, taking them from a foggy and unclear world into one filled with colors and light.

To increase awareness of the importance of transplant and organ donation, the Alabama Eye Bank has been promoting March as National Eye Donor Month.

Declared every year since 1983, the event is used as an opportunity to announce that anyone can improve the life of a visually impaired person by simply signing an organ donor card.

William Bowman, founder and director of the Visual Impaired People Organization in Selma, said he was the recipient of three corneal transplants.

The cornea is the thin, transparent outer covering of the eye that allows light to enter.

Joe Beckham, marketing director for the Alabama Eye Bank, said a transplant is needed if the eye becomes diseased or injured, causing the cornea to become cloudy and greatly diminishing sight.

According the Alabama Eye Bank’s website, 90 percent of all people who undergo this surgery experience restored sight. In some instances the transplant can give a patient 20/20 vision.

Headquartered in Birmingham, the Alabama Eye Bank is one of the largest providers of surgical ocular tissues for cornea use.

It provides eye tissue not only throughout the state, but also anywhere in the world where the tissue is needed.

Each year, some 45,000 transplants are performed in the United States.

All this month, Bowman said his organization has been visiting schools and talking to children about organ donation.

Beckham said one of the easiest ways to become an organ donor is to have the designation placed on your drivers license.