March is National Eye Donor Month
In 1983 President Ronald Reagan designated that March be known as Nation Eye Donor Month. Although the idea was to make the public aware of the need of corneas and of those waiting in hopes of seeing again, it never got the recognition that it should have. I mean, when was the last time you saw this event advertised on the television, radio, or even read about it in a newspaper? Truth is if you didn't know that March is National Eye Donor Month you certainly wouldn't be alone!
I used to be one of those people who did not realize that March was more than Saint Patrick’s Day or the first day of spring. Now National Eye Donor Month may come but once a year but not a day goes by that I am not aware of the importance of eye donor awareness. You see, and I am not using that word lightly, if it wasn't for the unconditional gift of a person I never knew I would still be living my life with the pain that my corneal disease inflicted on me.
For those who do not know what a cornea is it is the clear layer that forms over the front of your eye. This part of your eye plays a most important role in your vision. When a cornea becomes damaged is cannot perform its duty of allowing clear site. There are a multitude of reasons that a person may need a corneal transplant. With some it can be hereditary, but injury or disease can also play a part. No matter how a cornea becomes defective it always affects a person’s quality of life.
Bullous Keratopathy, a corneal disease that causes swelling, cloudy vision, and blisters was my diagnosis. When blisters would form and then break the pain was horrendous. If it wasn’t for my corneal donor I would still be dealing with the symptoms this disease brings.
The main reason for Nation Eye Donor Month and for my writing this is to bring about awareness of how important eye donation can be. But I would also like to take this opportunity to bring about awareness of a misconception that pertains to eye donation.
I believe that organ and tissue donation is a personal choice. But to make an informed choice one must educate themselves first, not just listen to what others might say, before making the decision to add that donor status to your license. It is not an exaggeration for me to say that someone’s life or quality of life depends on the unconditional act of an organ and tissue donor. However, it has been brought to my attention more times than I can remember that a person will say to me that they would love to donate their corneas but could not because of their age or a medical condition, such as diabetes. For the record, just about anyone no matter their age or medical history can become a corneal donor. With a donor status it is the transplant professionals who will evaluate and determine what is suitable for donation and what is not. So you may “think” that you are not capable to donate but chances are you possibly can. If you would like to become a corneal donor (or even an organ or tissue donor) and think it is impossible due to age or medical history my suggestion would be to either sign the donor card and leave it up to the transplant professionals or simply ask your physician.