Organizations: Georgia Eye Bank
Georgians generally demonstrate far-sighted vision in making cornea donations, according to the Georgia Eye Bank (GEB), which recovers, processes and provides donor eye tissue for surgeries and research.
GEB is the sole provider of eye banking services in the state and ranks among the top eye banks in the country in its size and output. Last year, it furnished tissue for more than 1,700 transplants and since its inception in 1961 has helped to restore the sight of more than 38,000 people. The bank, a nonprofit service organization funded largely by grants and donations, does not turn away any prospective recipient who might be uninsured or underinsured.
“Corneal transplants are one of the most common and least invasive transplant procedures,” says President and CEO Eric Meineke, noting that last year 50,000 people nationwide had the procedure. The first transplant was performed successfully in 1905. “Corneal transplants have a 95 percent success rate, with less risk of rejection from the recipients.”
Corneas can be recovered within 18 hours of cardiac death, and surgery can be scheduled within 14 days. Perfect vision and health are not requirements for donation because the tissue also can be used in medical research on issues such as diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration.
“We provide an option to families who are grieving,” Meineke says. “It’s a way of doing something good and lasting during a time of loss. That gift will vastly improve the quality of life for someone else. It’s the gift of sight. Because of these transplants, recipients can watch their children and grandchildren grow up.”