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Organ Donation: Can I Give My Eyes?

Each year, thousands of lives are saved by people who donate their organs. But there’s one part of the body that even many organ donors are squeamish about donating: their eyes.
So what exactly does it mean to donate your eyes?

How Are Your Eyes Used?
In most cases, donated eyes are used for corneal transplants. The cornea is the transparent outer covering of your eye that allows light to your retina. Disease and damage to the cornea are among the most common eye afflictions, particularly for those over the age of 65. Because of this, corneas are in high demand.  A cornea transplant is the most common type of transplant in the United States, with more than 40,000 corneal transplants occurring every year. Additionally in some cases, the sclera – the firm white part of the eye – is used in glaucoma surgery.

What Happens to Your Eyes?
When a registered donor organ passes away,  the Eyebank Foundation is contacted within 12 hours. The EyeBank Foundation of South Africa is a registered non-profit organisation, authorised by the Dept. of Health to obtain and distribute eye tissue to Surgeons for transplant purposes. Trained Eyebank Technicians will retrieve the corneas within 6-12 hours of death, and this is done at the mortuary, undertakers, hospital or even the donor’s home.

There is no cost involved in donating the corneas, and the confidentiality of both donors and recipients are protected by Law.

How Do You Become a Donor?
While the procedure for becoming an organ donor can vary from country to country, the simplest way is usually by registering with the South African Organ Donor Foundation or specifically the Eyebank Foundation of SA.

Despite great scientific and medical advancements, there are many men, women and children in need of donor tissue and organs in S.A. every day. Corneal transplantation allows for a renewed life for an individual in need of one of the most precious senses – the gift of sight.