Patients awaiting cornea replacements suffer as the number of eye donors sink. Eye banks and hospitals struggle to revive.
Bangalore: Due to lockdown, several eye banks and eye hospitals were unable to do eye surgeries and cornea replacements. Eye Bank Association of India decided not to accept any eye donations, therefore, hospitals and eye banks witnessed an almost 90-percent decline in cornea transplants.
Dr Gairik Kundu, a consultant at the Eye Bank and Cornea and Refractive services said, “The number of patients waiting for the cornea transplants sometimes exceeds three to four times. And during Covid times the number dropped down to zero transplant for a couple of months. In the initial months, we restricted eye collection for patients who needed a transplant and we avoided home collection of eyes.”
According to the authorities of Narayana Netralaya, in the pre-Covid times, they collected more than 100 eyes monthly. However, due to the pandemic, they couldn’t cross even 500 donated eyes in a year. And during the initial two-to-three months of the pandemic, there was no collection of eyes in the eye bank.
“Hospitals were the most vulnerable place during COVID-19. We were not supposed to get treated without a COVID-19 negative certificate. And due the fear of getting infected I refrained from getting my eyes treated,” said Aman Kumar, an eye patient.
Hospital authorities said they collected swabs from donors to reconfirm the COVID-19 negative test. And to ensure no infection is transmitted to the recipient and doctors.
Experts said, in emergency cases like a fungal infection, if there is no cornea transplant, people lose their vision.
Dr Sri Ram, an Ophthalmologist at Narayana Netralaya said, “There were a lot of emergency cases that we couldn’t treat due to these restrictions. And the impact was that those patients who were in dire need of a transplant lost their eye.”
Although the situation isn’t back to normal, eye banks and hospitals say it’s getting better than the previous year. They are now organizing awareness campaigns to encourage eye donations again.