The Gift of Sight: Celebrating Eye Donation Month11/22/2022
Alan Taylor, director of Tissue Services at Donor Network of Arizona (DNA), was in high school when he received the diagnosis that he was in early stages of keratoconus. Keratoconus occurs when your cornea becomes distorted, and in Taylor’s case, caused his vision in his left eye to eventually be nothing more than color and movement.
“I couldn’t see people. I would be virtually blind…it was like looking through a kaleidoscope.”
As an early intervention, Taylor was wearing bifocals in college, trying to read through his coursework and live his life like any other student.
Alan Taylor, director of tissue services at DNA, has 14+ years of eye banking experiences helping others get their vision back, like he did through donation.
In December 1995, he received his first cornea transplant. Immediately after the doctor took off the bandages on his healing eye, Taylor says he could see the details of the outlet on the wall across the room. Something so simple meant so much to him, and it was possible because a 19-year-old woman had given the gift of sight through cornea donation.
Fast forward nine years later, and Taylor was in a mountain bike accident that severely damaged his left eye. He ultimately needed a second cornea transplant.
“I was essentially a young guy, and [being visually impaired] made interactions with my family different. It was difficult because I knew I wasn’t present all the time. I didn’t participate as I should’ve.”
Thanks to the generosity of a 75-year-old man, Taylor’s vision was once again restored. After receiving his second transplant, he didn’t have those limitations that took time from his family.
“It changed my life and changed my son’s life, my children’s life.” Taylor’s journey with cornea donation is one of many stories and lives that have been changed for the better because of cornea donors.
“It’s a tremendous gift and I think about it on a daily basis.”
Cornea donation process
November is Eye Donation Month, and the cornea is one of the many tissues that can be a healing gift for someone in need. A cornea transplant involves the replacement of a diseased or scarred cornea with a cornea recovered from a donor.
DNA is a full-service eye bank, and works with ophthalmologists and surgeons locally, nationally and even internationally to help restore sight.
Luckily, there is not currently a waiting list for cornea transplants in the U.S., and most people have their cornea transplant within 30 days of needing it.
Not without its challenges
In 2020, we had toilet paper and hand sanitizer shortages. Years later, the domino effect hit less crucial items, such as carbon dioxide for carbonated beverages or the right ingredients for certain hot sauces. But the gift of life was not left out of supply chain issues.
The country was running out of a cornea preservation solution in 2022. In an era of scarcity, the DNA team was creative and resourceful, because organ, eye and tissue recipients depend on us every day.
DNA was so agile and vigilant that this cornea preservation solution shortage didn’t affect recipients. Our team even shared this vital resource with other eye banks struggling with similar limitations, so that they too could meet an ongoing need.
How you can help
Cornea donation is a life-changing procedure, and this process is possible because of the generous decision of donors. However, unlike cornea donation, there sadly aren’t enough organ donations to save the lives of everyone on the national waiting list. Yet! We have been working hard to change that. Each year, the country’s organ donation system gets closer to the 50,000 yearly transplant goal. That’s largely because we never lack support when it comes to our professional partnerships, the community, and the people who say yes to the gift of life.
We all may be in need of certain supplies, and face the challenges that this brings, but we have an abundance of hope to offer because we get so much of it from you. Registering to be a donor can help so many people who are awaiting a transplant, and lives are changed every day thanks to those who have registered. Register today at www.DonateLifeAZ.org.