“I want my eyes to be given to a child, so that he/she can see this beautiful world, how much wonder it contains, how much it holds for that precious child. I believe in change even if it is just brought to a life of a single person, it is a beautiful change……” ~ Agnes Christy

Today i.e September 8th, is the last day of the national ‘Fortnight On Eye Donation’ which is being observed in the country from 25th August to 8th September 2014.

According to the National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB), there are approximately 0.12 million corneal blind persons in the country and many others with visual impairment due to corneal diseases; about 25000-30000 new cases being added every year.

Majority of such blind persons are young and their sight can be restored by a corneal transplantation. There has been progress in the eye donation with approximately 45000-50000 eyes being collected by the eye banks but the requirement is 0.12 million transplantable corneas.

Eye Donation, though a noble cause, is usually mired in hesitations and misconceptions. People do agree that it would be such a great thing if two people could regain sight after a person’s death. However, when it comes to a death in our own family, we squirm at the thought of donating our loved one’s eyes.

It is sad that in a nation like ours, where tens of thousands die every day, hardly few thousand corneas are collected in a year! Lakhs of blind Indians die waiting for a cornea, just because of a lack of awareness.

In order to dispel these myths, educate and inspire larger audience to contribute towards this good cause, we at News With Chai caught up with Dr Vandana Jain and Shreepad Agashe.

Dr Jain is a Cornea Specialist and the Director of Advanced Eye Hospital and Institute in Navi Mumbai. Shreepad Agashe, an Ex-BARC, has been a dedicated activist and an untiring eye donation awareness campaigner since 1981. However, NewsWithChai’s mail to the joint secretary in the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare to understand the outcomes of this campaign has still not been answered.

Shreepad Agashe has been working towards spreading awareness about eye donation since 1981, inspired by an article in the Reader’s Digest. After months of research involving visits to eye banks, he has taken initial steps towards reaching people at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu, where he was posted then. A desire for increasing the footprint resulted in him asking for, and getting, transferred to Mumbai in 1991. All his spare time is devoted to the cause and currently, he delivers lectures, conducts poster exhibitions, puts up stalls/table spaces at public places for creating the awareness. His efforts have resulted in 100+ eye donations and approximately 10,000 have pledging their eyes!

We are appending his short profile in Marathi to connect with the larger population of Maharashtra for this noble cause. Shri Agashe can be reached on 996.916.6607 or 022.2580.5800 or you may visit his blog

श्रीपाद  आगाशे – अल्प परिचय :

भाभा अणु संशोधन केंद्रातून निवृत्त .

३६ वेळा रक्तदान केले असून १९८१ पासून वैयक्तिक पातळीवर विविध प्रकारे  नेत्रदान प्रचार-प्रसाराचे कार्य करीत आहेत .गेली काही वर्षे त्वचादान ,अवयवदान , देहदानाचाही  प्रचार – प्रसार करीत आहेत. Eye Bank Association of India चे आजीव सभासद असून विविध नेत्रपेढ्यांचे सुमारे ८ ००० फॉर्म भरून घेतले आहेत. मृताच्या  वारसाना भेटून नेत्रदानासाठी  प्रवृत्त करण्याचे प्रयत्न करतात.आतापर्यंत प्रत्यक्ष- अप्रत्यक्ष सुमारे १०० नेत्रदाने  झाली आहेत.

www.netradaan.blogspot.com हा ब्लॉग चालवतात. दूरदर्शन, इतर वाहिन्या तसेच आकाशवाणीवर  मुलाखती  झाल्या आहेत. ठाणे महानगरपालिका तसेच  विविध  संस्थांचे पुरस्कार मिळाले आहेत.

And, here are the edited excerpts of the interview with Dr. Vandana Jain that answers the what, why, where and how of eye donation:

News With Chai: Dr Jain, thank you for taking the time out to answer our queries. Eye donation is truly the need of the hour. Isn’t it?

Dr Vandana Jain: Yes, we have about 10 million blind Indians. Blindness can occur due to various causes. Sometimes, it is due to diseases that affect the outer part of the eye, called the cornea. Today, there are about 2.5 million Indians who are blind from a corneal illness. These can easily regain sight if they undergo an eye surgery called Cornea Transplantation. At Advanced Eye Hospital in Navi Mumbai, our Cornea Department is fully accomplished to perform all the types of Cornea Transplant Surgeries, using the latest technologies available today.

However, we are not able to help as many patients as we would like to, because of the severe dearth of corneas in our country. The Goliath figures of a million waiting patients cannot be matched by the mere few thousands Indians who do donate their eyes.

News With Chai: If I wish to donate my eyes, what should I do?

Dr Vandana Jain: You can pledge your eyes at your nearest eye bank or contact us. If you do pledge your eyes, it is very essential that your family and friends know of your honourable decision to donate your eyes after you die. Because if they do not give consent, your eyes cannot be collected after you die, even if you have pledged to donate your eyes.

News With Chai: So after I die, how should my family go about donating my eyes?

Dr Vandana Jain: After your demise, your loved ones will need to get in touch with the nearest eye collection centre. The personnel at the eye collection centre will give them certain instructions:

  • Keep two pillows under the head of the deceased to raise the head end of the body by about 6 inches
  • Cover both eyes with moist cotton, switch off the fans above the deceased and switch on the A.C. if available.
  • Keep a photostat (Xerox) copy of the death certificate ready

Two of your relatives will be asked to sign a consent form, declaring that they have no objection in donating your eyes. Very few people know that they can donate their relatives’ eyes, even if the deceased hadn’t pledged their eyes.

News With Chai: But I use glasses. Can I still donate my eyes?

Dr Vandana Jain: Practically anybody can be a donor. There is no age limit. People who wear spectacles, who have undergone cataract surgery, diabetics and those who have hypertension can donate their eyes. People blind from retinal or optic nerve disease can also donate their eyes. The ultimate decision about usage for transplantation will be made after evaluation. If during processing at the eye bank the cornea is deemed unfit for transplantation then it is utilized for research purpose.

News With Chai: But Doctor, if anybody can donate their eyes, is that safe for the receiver?

Dr Vandana Jain: After the eye has been collected, it is screened to see if it is suitable for use. Also, 5 ml blood is withdrawn from the deceased donor. This is tested for diseases like HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and syphilis to ensure that the receiver of the transplant is absolutely safe. Apart from these diseases, eyes are not taken up for transplantation of the donor suffered from certain neurological disorders or died due to certain cancers, infections or an unknown cause.

News With Chai: Usually people avoid donating eyes because of the fear that it will disfigure their loved one’s body.

Dr Vandana Jain: Oh no, not at all. There is no disfigurement caused due to removal of the eye. After collection, the eye regionis bandaged. Also, this entire process does not take more than 20 minutes. So there is no question of any delay in the funeral or rituals. The identities of the eye donor as well as the recipient are kept confidential.

News With Chai: That’s not too bad then!

Dr Vandana Jain: Definitely. Especially since one person can give sight to two people. Various parts of a single eyeball can be made use of – viz., the cornea (partial / full thickness transplant), the white of the eye or sclera and stem cells from an area called the limbus.

As Marcel Proust rightly said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” As the campaign comes to an end, we hope that it educates and motivates more people to come forward to pledge their support towards this good cause.

About Dr Vandana Jain: Dr. Vandana Jain, MS (Gold Medalist), DNB, MNAMS, FLVPEI, FICO (Harvard USA), MBA (Stanford USA) is a Cornea, Cataract & Lasik Surgeon. She is the Director & Co-founder of the Advanced Eye Hospital. She has more than a decade of experience in Ophthalmology apart from exhaustive training and a vast number of research publications to her credit.

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