BANGALORE: Over the last two years, the number of eye donations in the city has hit stagnation. This, after a spurt in the numbers following sustained awareness campaigns. City Express takes a hard look at the prevailing scenario.
The percentage of eye donations has increased by a meager 0.5 percent in the last few years because of the wide gap between demand and supply, says Shashikala Murali, who handles resource mobilisation for Shankara Eye Clinic. While the figure for demand lies in several lakhs, the supply is in a few hundreds. In addition, more than fifteen to twenty thousand new people who require eye transplant are added to list.
Vision impairment is a term used in the medical field to describe a condition where the vision of a person may be partially or completely lost. Certain types of impairment can be corrected. The most common surgical treatment, corneal grafting, is done by transplanting the outer most layer (cornea) from the donor eye to the recipient’s.
An average of 40 patients are on the waiting list in city hospitals to receive corneal transplants. While Shankara Eye Bank reports 80 patients, Command Hospital reports eight. “The technology needed to prevent, treat and rehabilitate corneal blindness is known and available. Despite this, the avoidable tragedy continues to be widely prevalent in the nation,” says Dr Kaushik Murali, consultant pediatric and director at Shankara Eye Clinic.
According to Dr Naveen from Command Hospital, more than 800 people had pledged to donate their eyes from 2002-10, but no one has come forward to pledge their eyes in the last two years. Experts say that this reflects a dip in campaigning for eye donation. It is literally a case of out-of-sight is out-of-mind of the public memory.
However, there are others who feel that there is no point in conducting awareness campaigns, as people might come forward to pledge their eyes, but it is seldom implemented by their family members. Ashwat C, Operation Theater Technician, from a prominent eye hospital said that 100 people pledge to donate their eyes every year at Prabha Eye Bank. But, the number of transplants vary from a minimum of 28 at the Command Hospital to an escalating 676 at the Lions International Eye Bank, Bangalore over 2011 and 2012.
Sushma Ravi, a counsellor at an eye hospital, says that often families find it difficult to donate any organ of their loved ones. Also, in several cases, proper precautionary measures are not taken to save the eyes. Sudhakar Reddy, Eye Bank manager at Lions International Eye Bank, says, “The expected number of corneally blind population in India will increase to 10.6 million by 2020.” Their hope for vision rests on eye donations.