Alvin Hallett (above) shares his experience at Kensington Eye Institute after a cornea transplant.
November is Eye Donation Month and the Eye Bank (Ontario Division) is raising awareness to encourage more people to register as organ and tissue donors. Donated eye tissue plays an important role in helping people see again through corneal (the clear surface that covers the eye) transplants and scleral (the white part of the eye) transplants. Unfortunately, eye tissue availability is one factor that may impede how quickly a patient gets the eye surgery they need.
Registering as an donor is simple, easy and makes a big difference. It only takes a few minutes to register to become a donor and can have an immense impact on many lives.
Stopping the stigma
Here are some facts about eye donation that you may not know:
• “Eye donation” does not mean the entire eye is transplanted; it is possible to donate only the cornea (the clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye)
• Even if you have glasses, poor vision, are blind, or suffer from cataracts or glaucoma, you can still register to be a donor
• Almost anyone with cancer (except those with certain blood or eye cancers) can donate their corneas
• Almost anyone can be a potential donor regardless of age, race, or medical history
• When it comes to corneal tissue, everyone is a universal donor; your blood type does not have to match
• Donors’ bodies are treated with the utmost care and dignity, and recoveries are performed with the least invasive methods
• Because eye tissue retrieval is performed within hours of death, funeral arrangements are generally not delayed
• The donor, or their family, do not incur any costs for donating their eye tissue
“Donor tissue saved my sight”
Alvin Hallett, 83, is no stranger to vision impairment. During a procedure to have his cataract removed, there was a complication that damaged his cornea. After multiple visits to the doctor, and recognizing that his damaged cornea would not heal on its own, Alvin was referred to Kensington Eye Institute for a cornea transplant.
An expert in the outdoors
After selling their dairy farm in 1975, Alvin (left), and his wife, Shirley (right), moved to the lake where they would take over Shirley’s parents’ cottage business. Alvin would build a marina in 1985.
Happily married with two children and two grandchildren, Alvin loved exploring the great outdoors.
“My favourite thing to do was boat on the lake. I even built a full-service marina and boat storage,” said Alvin. “But with my vision impairment, I was now unable to see on water. I felt very dependent at this time.”
Providing faith and hope
Alvin was referred to Dr. Clara Chan, Medical Director of The Eye Bank of Canada (Ontario Division), and Ophthalmologist specializing in cornea and cataract surgeries at Kensington Eye Institute. In August 2017, Dr. Chan performed a successful cataract surgery on Alvin’s left eye, and in April 2018, performed a successful cornea transplant in Alvin’s right eye.
Fifteen minutes after his surgery, Alvin was overjoyed that he could see the room around him.
Words can’t express how thankful I am
Alvin recognized that without the generosity of individuals willing to register as an organ and tissue donor, his procedure to restore his sight would not be possible.
“I want to thank the person, and their family, who donated their cornea. I wish I could meet you and thank you. I never fully realized what I had until I lost it, and because of your donation, I can see the world again,” said Alvin. “There are many people in Ontario, in Canada and around the world that need eye tissue, and the help that donors provide is crucial and important. Your help can make life better for those in need.”