Eye Bank Association Kerala
Eye Bank Association Kerala's Mission is to continuously educate general public about preventing blindness caused due to corneal disorders and wherever cure is required facilitate availability of cornea in the shortest possible time.
Main Objectives of Eye Bank Association Kerala are:
a) Create awareness about eye donation
b) Augment quality and quantity of corneas collected
c) Evolve and implement uniform medical and operational standards and practices which are on par with international standards
d) Act as a resource center for all eye banks in the country
25 years ago Angamaly was a small village at the outskirts of Cochin. Little Flower Hospital was a very small institution, having only about 5 to 6 doctors with less than 100 beds. Eye department was in existence for about 3 years. Yet it was a small centre capable to cater only for a few patients. There was hardly any inpatient beds except for emergency and only occassional surgeries were undertaken. Sitting in a little room I was dreaming and planning future expansions with hardly any equipment or financial help. The Hospital management was reluctant to make any investment. No institution can invest on a venture which does not give enough returns. The success of any hospital depends on confidence and goodwill of the patients and therefore my first priority was to make the department good enough to gain this goodwill.
We started cataract surgeries and squint operations and flow of the patients increased steadily. Most of the people who came to us were poor. A memorable incident occurred during those days. A poor blind lady came to me for treatment. She had advanced corneal dystrophy and she was only around 30 years. I examined her and explained to her that both her eyes require a transplantation operation and that it can be done only in Gujarat where such transplant surgeries were regularly undertaken or she should wait till I get an eye from a dead person. She said, she was poor and she could not go any where and insisted I should help. She repeatedly visited me in despair. I realised then that there were many people who needed such help and decided to do something about it.
Starting of the Eye Bank
Dr. K. L. Jacob, my colleague and classmate was the superintendent of the hospital and general surgeon. Dr. C. K. Eapen was the physician. We discussed the matter and decided to start an "Eye Bank Association" to collect donor eyes for transplantation. This perhaps was the first attempt to be undertaken in any Private Institution.
It was essential in our set-up to involve the public in this attempt. Without their support such a project will definitely fail. Our director was Late Rev. Fr. Parikulam who took very keen interest in this matter. To our help came a good friend Mr. Mathukutty Kunnappally, who was a regular visitor to our hospital. He was very enthusiastic about the whole project.
Mr. J. P. Grifth, the managing director of J & P Coats (later known as Madura Coats) was elected as President and Mr. Mathukutty was elected as Secretary. Mr. Govindan, Manager of Coats was made the treasurer. The organisation was registered as a charitable society.
Help from Sri Lanka International Eye Bank
Getting eyes from local people was found to be extremely difficult. People were unaware about eye donation and resisted the very idea of such an act. Misinterpreted religious beliefs and wrong concepts stood in the way of Eye donation. So we contacted Sri Lanka International Eye Bank. Dr. Hudson Silva, a selfless individual, had started an eye bank with the help of his wife. They were kind enough to help us and promised to send us the eyes. The Air Lanka and Indian Airlines agreed to bring eyes free of cost. But we had innumerable problems with the customs. Though some of the officers showed understanding, some refused to budge. We were even asked to pay customs duty. It took almost an year or two to get the customs duty exemption. From Sri Lanka regular supply of eyes were arriving and transplantation surgeries became a regular affair. The selfless services of the people who took great pains to get the eye cleared andtransport it to Angamaly from Trivandrum within a short time needs mention.
Mr. Jerome Netto of Trivandurm and the secretary of the Kerala Federation of the Blind, Mr. Georgekutty and their members took up the challenge and put in a lot of efforts to see that the eyes reached Angamaly in time.
Initially there were a lot of financial constraints. No patient was charged for the eye thus collected, and most of the surgeries were done on poor patients free of charge. Therefore money had to be collected to finance this project. Mr. Mathukkutty brought out the first souvenir with the help of some of the generous people. We collected enough for the day to day working of the Eye Bank. Madura Coats were generous enough to help. A free ward was constructed, instruments and boxes needed for enucleation were purchased.
The main activity of the association was the propagation of the message on eye donation. Slides was prepared and shown in the cinema theatres, booklets and bit notices were distributed. A 16mm film projector and necessary films were purchased. Weekly meetings and lectures were conducted and films were shown on eye donation. It took almost 20 years of repeated propaganda work to educate people. Arrangement had to be made to enucleate eyes and transport it to the hospital any time of the day. Mr. K.P. Cherian our co-ordinator took keen interest on organising classes and meetings. Mr. E. V. Philip took active interest and his wife's eyes were donated to the Eye Bank. He has been a source of inspiration for the movement. Rev. Fr. Rocky Vazhapally has been a great supporter of Eye donation. Being a Parish Priest he could propagate the idea and inspire and motivate people in different parishes. By his effort maximum number of eyes were collected. Though in initial years almost all eyes came from Sri Lanka, in the last 4 to 5 years the position has been completely reversed. Now all the eyes are locally collected, and we are now in a position to supply eyes to other people. Involvement of organisations in Eye donation Organisations had played a wonderful role for the development of the Eye Bank at L.F. Hospital, Angamaly. Since the start of our Eye Bank ,we could notice that there was a marked growth in the number of eyes we collected from different parts of Kerala.
Although we have collected thousands of donor's consent letter during initial stage of our Eye Bank we could not receive any Eye due to the problem of communication from donor's side. To solve this problem, we started the 'Eye Donation Forum' with the initiative of Mr. K.P. Cheriyan, co-ordinator of Eye Bank.
He started to organize this Forum in different parishes wherein there are organizations already working with different activities. He entrusted one of these organisations for Eye donation as one of their activities. Since then we started to receive more eyes and the number started to increase. The collection of the eyes has increased the number of transplantations also picked up. We get patients from all over South India as well as from outside India. Our efforts are well supported by the Rev. Monsr. Abraham Karedan, our Director and Patron.
The able guidance and whole-hearted work of some of the staff need to be mentioned. Mr. Puduval who took a great interest in the initial stage to get the organisation running. Mr. Babu, Mr. Stephen, Mr. Poulose, who are incharge of Eye Bank and the present incharge Mr. Shaju, the Eye Bank driver Mr. George Joseph, the many doctors, sisters, nurses, diploma students, etc. are people who carried out the work very effectively. The Eye Bank owes a great deal to them. Dr. T. P. Ittyarah has been the living force and guiding light in the organisation. The excellent leadership he gave all these years have been commendable.
The Govt. of India came forward with a grant in 1995. They supplied a vehicle and grant. We are thankful to Dr. Jose Department of Health, Govt. of India, Dr. P. S. Balan District Medical Officer of Kerala, Dr. U. Nandakumaran District Co-ordinator Blindness control society etc. who have been a great help.
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