Beibei Yi Country Director, Greater China, Global Program SightLife
There is a group of people bringing in special meaning in the eye health sector. For the millions blinded by corneal opacity, the 4th leading cause of blindness in China, their only chance to get back their vision is to have a transplant of healthy cornea donated by an altruistic eye donor. Each year there are about 10%-15% more cornea donors giving the gift of sight in the country. Most of their stories were just kept to the donors community. This year, they are being memorized in a different way in the country, by a united campaign advocating eye donation and corneal blindness elimination nationally in 13 provinces across China.
In the beginning of this year, a grass root federation of 15 eye banks announced a joint campaign in the country to pay tribute to the eye donors in China. The month-long movement, as explained by the members of the eye banks, started from the Chinese traditional Spring Equinox day in March, to the Tomb Sweeping Day in April, celebrating the gift of sight given by someone who is deceased bringing the donor recipient back to work and life. Mr. Yin Yong, an initiator of the campaign, has been an eye banker for 29 years in Xi’an, Shaanxi province. His eye bank organized memorial events bringing together donor families, eye donation pledgers, cornea recipients, eye donation coordinators and government officials to share their hearty moments about eye donation and transplant. The series of video clips of stories of families, pledgers and recipients posted by the eye bank on social media got thousands of likes online as well as resonated replies. “I have the same thoughts in mind when I filled my pledge form.” A comment said, to an interview of a senior pledger who expressed she took no point taking cornea away with her after death but would rather have it stay to help someone see again.
The China Federation of Eye Bank Development and Collaboration, as a partner of SightLife in China, shares the same mission of eliminating corneal blindness. The eye banking society in China is taking steps to build effective systems to access eye donors and provide quality tissue for transplant. The efforts consist a key part of the whole chain of service to corneal patients. To address the problem, it needs the whole corneal health system to take action, including policy and advocacy, corneal health tasks shift and prevention in community, training and transfer of surgical and clinical skills, as well as innovation of techniques and approaches in low-resource settings. Join us to renew hope and heal the corneal blind.
Caption for image on top: Ms. Ma, an eye donation pledger says ‘There’s no point taking it away with me (when I’m gone)’’