The National Eye Donation Fortnight is observed in India between Aug 25 and Sept 8 every year since 1985, to raise awareness on eye donation. Recently, the Avoidable Blindness (AB) committee of RID 3190 organised a webinar to promote the cause.
Dr G N Rao, founder chairman, L V Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, in his keynote address recalled the initial years of professional practice as a cornea surgeon in the US, when corneal transplant was done on an emergency basis due to its limited availability and lack of storage facilities. When he moved to India to establish the eye hospital in 1987 and an eye bank in 1989, he was discouraged by many as there was no concept of eye donation. During the first year of the eye bank, he could collect only 10 corneas. Today, the institute is one of Asia’s biggest eye banking facilities, he said. Dr Rao urged eye hospitals and NGOs such as Rotary and Lions to recommend to the government to formulate policy regulations for eye donation and implement a Hospital-based Cornea Retrieval Programme (HCRP) across major Indian hospitals with financial support. He stated that in the last year his hospital had collected 10,500 corneas, and 70 per cent of the donations came through HCRP.
A panel discussion anchored by the committee chairman Dr M V Ravikumar included Dr J Ganesh from Sivakasi; Gurudev and Dr Hareesh from Dodballapura; B L Sharma, president, Eye Bank Society of Rajasthan (EBSR); and S Jayaraman, founder trustee of Nayana Jyothi Trust, Bengaluru.
Dr Hareesh and his father-in-law Gurudev explained how, through several motivational programmes, they could collect 1,460 corneas in and around Dodballapura which has a population of 100,000.
Sharma said that EBSR has eye banks across Rajasthan and pays its members for the cornea collected, which are given free to the poor. He explained the role of the police in enhancing eye donation. Dr Ganesh has collected over 14,000 corneas benefitting over 40,000 people in the past 11 years.
Jayaraman explained his concept of ‘vision ambassadors’ who campaign for eye donations. He had introduced the eye donation helpline ‘104’ common for Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to create database of donors and promote the cause.
Pradeep Sudarshan, a visually- challenged member of the AB committee, shared his experience in promoting eye donation among his family and friends. Dr Arun Adkoli, the committee’s technical adviser, thanked the resource persons and participants.