Over the years, technology has created amazing tools and resources to improve human life. Non-profit organizations like TejKohli Foundation have used technology to rebuild communities around the world. The foundation has endeavoured to deliver outreach microsurgical eye clinics to restore the eyesight of tens of thousands of the world’s poorest who are suffering from blindness.
Restoring sight through corneal transplants
According to the World Health Organization, one of the major public health problems in developing nations is blindness caused by cataracts, glaucoma, and corneal diseases. In India, it is estimated that approximately 6.8 million people have a vision that is less than 6/60 in at least one eye due to corneal disease. It is expected that the number of people with unilateral corneal blindness will increase every year in India.
However, the status of corneal blindness is expected to change over time due to the delivery of free surgical procedures to poor and underserved communities. A corneal transplant can replace part of the cornea with corneal tissue from a donor to restore vision, reduce pain and improve the appearance of the damaged cornea.
Donors of the cornea are usually deceased persons who have died from known causes and do not have any eye disease. Unlike other organs like livers and kidneys, people who require corneal transplants do not need tissue matching. Donors are widely available hence the waiting list is quite short. Non-profit organizations provide the gift of sight by facilitating cornea donations. There are people who join the organ and tissue donor registry to share their intent to help other by being a donor. Upon the death of the donor, he becomes eligible to be an eye, tissue, or organ donor.
Non-profit organizations also work with eye banks, donor hospitals, and donor families to facilitate corneal donations. Eye banks are institutions responsible for collecting (harvesting) and processing donor corneas. Harvesting of the corneas is ideally done within 6 hours to 12 hours after death. A written consent must be obtained from the donor’s senior next of kin. The donor’s medical and social history is evaluated to make sure that there are no contraindications to the donation. The suitability of the cornea is also assessed by a corneal surgeon to reduce the risks of failure or the transmission of an infection.
Non-profit organizations have to instigate and fund the training and deployment of ophthalmologists, ophthalmic paramedics, and technicians to perform high-volume outreach surgeries and treat hundreds of people for free. They have to establish and fund a network of permanent community eye hospitals and train local technicians for outreach missions. There is a huge need in the world for the kind of free and accessible treatments that are provided by community eye hospitals.
A new alliance between Tej Kohli and SandukRuit’ foundations will combine Ruit’s technical expertise in delivering large-scale, low-cost eye surgeries with Kohli’s experience in funding grassroots projects all over the world. They have the resources, passion, and expertise to tackle the problem of untreated blindness on a completely new scale.