Public EducationA main goal of The Eye-Bank is to educate the public about the ongoing need for eye donations for transplant, medical education and research. The public education department’s efforts to bring this message to the community include producing an eight-page newsletter called eye-to-eye; creating public service announcements for print; radio and television; and reaching out the public and disseminating information through health fairs, libraries, school education programs and other special projects throughout the year. The Eye-Bank’s public education department works closely with cornea transplant recipients and donor families who are willing to share their personal experience to help others understand the good that eye donation can do.
Brooklyn Resident Elated With Gift of Restored SightOnce afraid at the prospect of traveling the short distance to work everyday, Elaine Gray now welcomes the opportunity to make elaborate travel plans to places as far away as Alaska since her sight has been restored with two cornea transplants.
In 1976 she was diagnosed with keratoconus, a progressive eye disease causing the cornea, the clear, outer covering of the eye, to thin and become cone shaped. Untreated, it can lead to blindness.
At the time of diagnosis Elaine, the mother of two, began wearing hard contact lenses designed to help correct the blurred vision caused by the disease. But, as the keratoconus progressed, it became apparent that the contact lenses were not an adequate solution to the problem. Her only alternative was a cornea transplant and on August 30th, 1996, Dr. Wilson Ko performed the sight-restoring procedure at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, with tissue provided by The Eye-Bank for Sight Restoration.
Her first transplant successfully corrected the vision in her right eye and she received another cornea transplant later in her left eye. She said that no day passes without her thinking about her donors and theirfamilies and she is incredibly humbled and grateful for her second chance at sight. In July 2003, Elainerepresented all cornea recipients in saying thank you at the National Donor Family Ceremony in Washington, DC.
Retirement becomes Brighter For Cornea Transplant RecipientFor Audrey Soracco, being able to read a book makes her smile. Ever since someone was kind enough to leave her the gift of sight, she has been doing nothing but smiling knowing when she opens her eyes each morning she’ll be able to see.
Soracco received a sight-restoring cornea transplant in 1998 and it has improved her life in so many ways. For one, she can now read her books with ease. “I used to have to hold the book right up to my eyes, and still I wasn’t seeing it clearly.”
When her eyesight began to fail in 1997 she was referred to a cornea specialist and was diagnosed with Fuch’s Dystrophy, a degenerative disease that results in blindness.
Fortunately her eyesight could be restored with a cornea transplant, which was successfully performed by Dr. David Haight at Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital in New York City with donor eye tissue supplied by The Eye-Bank for Sight Restoration
The very next day the protective eye patch was removed and Audrey noticed a change immediately. “When Dr. Haight removed the eye shield it was as if God turned the light on again. I looked at the eye chart and kept saying to him, I can see the ‘E’, I can see the ‘E’!”
As a way of giving something back for her gift, Audrey, who recently retired from practice as a psychotherapist, volunteers with The Eye-Bank’s Speaker’s Bureau going out to area schools and community groups to speak on the importance of organ, eye and tissue donation.
She also now has time for travel and her face beams when speaking of her recent trip to California to visit her nieces and nephews and for the restored eyesight that allows her to really see their smiling faces.
David See: His Name is His LegacyDavid See was a trainer of guide dogs for the blind and dedicated his life to helping others regain independence from a world of darkness. So it comes as no surprise that in his death he would continue to help the blind by donating his eyes to The Eye-Bank, giving two people the precious gift of sight.
According to his wife, Susan, David died very unexpectedly from a blood clot at the age of 44. Devastated by the news, she sat in the hospital thinking about what she was going to do, how she was going to cope with the loss. She was then approached by a nurse asking for consent to eye and tissue donation. Without hesitation, she agreed to donate.
Though it was an incredibly emotional time for the whole family, she explained how donating her husband’s eyes and tissues helped ease some of the pain of losing him. “Everything had a symbol that day. We decided to donate his arteries, remembering both his mother and uncle had bypass surgery We donated his corneas, thinking of how he dedicated his life helping the blind, and his skin, since he was a fireman and skin is used to help heal burn wounds.”
Mrs. See said she and her family’s healing has begun and it’s helpful knowing that David is living on in others.
“His whole life was spent helping others, so it was only natural in his death he did the same. If two people can see because of his donation, it makes some of the pain seem worth it,” Mrs. See said. “He was such a loving and giving person.”
Presidential Kudos For Nathan Sheinfeld!For nine years old, Nathan Sheinfeld, June 5, 1998 started like any other day. However, while playingminiature golf, Nathan was accidentally struck in his left eye with a golf club, causing his eye to rupture.
Performing surgery immediately, surgeons found the worst had occurred - Nathan's retina had become permanently detached causing total blindness in his left eye and requiring the entire eye to be removed. If Nathan was allowed to keep his eye he would develop sympathetic ophthalmia, a condition that would eventually lead to blindness in his other eye.
Nathan wanted to know what would become of his eye once it was removed. Doctors told his mother, Rachel Heisler, that since the cornea was still healthy, it could be used for a sight-saving cornea transplant for someone else in need. In spite of his own trauma, Nathan decided to donate his healthy eye tissue to The Eye-Bank for Sight Restoration.
As a result of Nathan's caring decision, the sight of a 53-year-old man was restored. President Clinton praised Nathan in a letter commending him on his act of courage.
Today Nathan, who has a prosthetic left eye, is 15 and back on the sports field. He recently took part in a donor awareness event at Madison Square Garden in New York City and many of his friends from Solomon Schecter High School came with him.