Like Looking Through Phosphorylated Glass

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Former engineer Ian Hicks lost 85 percent of sight in his right eye during a house fire blaze that saw him go back into the flames to search for his young daughter.

‘It's like looking through phosphorylated glass. You can see that, but you can't distinguish. It's very blurred.’

Ian and hundreds like him have to enlist the help of the National Eye Bank. Here, corneas are removed from donors then stored in an incubator before being transported to operating theatres around the country.

One week after Ian’s operation, he's outside dusting off the old fishing boat that's been mothballed since the fire.

‘I feel great actually, and I can see a lot better than I did before only with this short time.’

The same problems confronted television producer Diana Ward a few years ago, Diana suffered from keratoconus (conical cornea). She needed a transplant - a replacement cornea.

‘The difference is amazing. There's no way I’d be able to do my job now if I hadn't had corneal grafts. There's no way I’d be able to do the sports that I love like skiing and snorkelling, mountain biking. It's completely changed my life. I can't thank the donors and my eye specialists enough for giving me the gift of sight.’

What is a Cornea?

The cornea is the clear ‘window’ covering the front of the eye and is the main focusing element. It must remain transparent and regular in shape to focus light correctly.

How Does The Eye Bank Help People Restore/Improve Their Sight?

For someone with a cloudy, scarred, or distorted cornea, a corneal transplant is often their only hope of restoring vision.

Unlike modern artificial lenses, there is no artificial cornea. A viable cornea from a recently deceased person is the only option. Without a corneal transplant, many of these people would become blind or severely vision impaired.

The Eye Bank retrieves corneas from deceased donors, checks the tissue to ensure it is free from infection, stores the tissue for up to a month, assesses it for graft viability, then transports it to hospitals around New Zealand for transplantation.

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