Letter: Become a donor for better eyesight

Published 4:29 pm Saturday, April 14, 2018

To the Editor

April is National Donate Life Month, honoring eye, tissue and organ donors, and the life-saving and life-changing gifts they have given.

Each year in the United States, more than 82,000 people experience restored sight through cornea transplants, more than 30,000 life-saving organ transplants are performed, and more than 1.5 million people receive life-changing tissue transplants. One person, donating everything possible, could help save or change the lives of more than 75 people.

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My mom said yes to donation, and her gift at a Mayo Clinic Hospital directly helped a scientist at the University of Minnesota improve a specific ophthalmic surgery. Her gift is benefitting countless patients and the surgeons who perform the improved procedure that was developed through research. Living donors selflessly provide blood, bone marrow, skin, and the need for living kidney donors is tremendous.

There are many myths surrounding donation. Most cancers, poor vision, age, or residence in a nursing home or being a hospice patient are not usually barriers to eye donation. There is no cost to the family of a donor, and donation should not delay or prevent traditional funeral arrangements or whole body donation. All major religions support donation, viewing it as an act of love.

There are a number of resources to help you make an informed decision. Watch for community health and wellness programs, and medical center education offerings in your area.  In southeastern Minnesota, the Elephant in the Room network group at the Rochester Public Library offers regular opportunities and information to learn how to get these sometimes awkward but important conversations started.  See @RochesterElephant.

You can register to be a donor on a driver’s license, state ID, while purchasing a hunting or fishing license, and at RegisterMe.org. Registration is not required, but it is helpful for families and health care providers to know at time of death. Advance Directive documents are important roadmaps for your loved ones and providers, and can also address your wishes regarding donation.

A special thank you to the nurses, social workers, surgeons, scientists, researchers, hospice and nursing home providers, recovery technicians and funeral directors who are committed to helping others give and receive the gifts of life and sight, to advance research and to provide education, including right here in the Austin area.

Also, a heartfelt thank you, to the Lions in our communities, who work tirelessly to bring support where there is need.

As Minnesota’s eye bank for 58 years, Lions Gift of Sight has provided more than 35,000 corneas for sight saving transplants, and more than 38,000 eyes for research and education. We partner with hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and medical examiner offices across the state and beyond to recover and provide donor eye tissue to surgeons and researchers.

Please consider donation, and talk about it with your loved ones. Monday, April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day, a perfect opportunity to put your wishes in writing and on file.

Patty Stockdale

Eye Donation Liaison

Lions Gift of Sight

University of Minnesota