Why Nigerians should donate their eyes at death
It is a rebirth for Emma Akana, Sikiru Akinbanjo and Friday Akagbue. The trio are not united by blood but what they have in common is that they have all once tasted two worlds – the agonizing experience of acute darkness through blindness and the ecstasy of having their eye sights restored.
They were not born blind though, but each of them once lived in the world of the blind. They can now see through a time-tested scientific process known as cornea transplant.
Recounting their odyssey from the land of the sightless back to that of the sighted, the trio gave testimonies of hope to others with similar predicament.
For Akana, a septuagenarian and retired engineer who completely lost his sight previously, being able to see again is like a rebirth. “My life has changed,” he remarked. “Nothing can be compared to being able to move around freely without being assisted or led by someone because you cannot see.”
“It is my personal miracle. After six years of living in darkness, I can see light again. I no longer have to lean on anyone to move around. I even drive myself. Every doctor that examined me told me the same thing, which was that the treatment I needed was not available in Nigeria, but they were soon proved wrong, because it was here in Nigeria that I had my sight restored, and the operation was carried out by Nigerians,” he said at a recent event held by the Eye Bank for Restoring Sight (EBRSN).
Buoyed by the success of its recent cornea transplant, the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) is embarking on a public sensitization to encourage Nigerians donate their corneas at death for the benefit of many suffering visually-impaired Nigerians.
In a chat with The Guardian, the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of LASUTH, Prof. David Adewale Oke, said the institution is seriously thinking of having cornea implants to reduce the number of people affected by partial and total blindness.
“Damages to the cornea is the commonest cause of blindness, that is the membrane that covers the eye and a lot of things could result in blindness like chemical or accident. Right now, the Eye Foundation, in collaboration with the hospital has started educating the public on the need for patients to donate their corneas when they die.
“At first, we got a lot of resistance, especially relating to our culture like some people saying if you remove my eyes and give to somebody, when I come back in the next world will I still have it? In spite of this, however, a lot of patients have benefitted from the eye bank. Today they can see, and a lot of people are signing on, indicating their interest in donating their cornea when they die.”
Oke further disclosed that the hospital is also working on having a concha implant. “It is a process by which you put in some microchips into the ear for patients who cannot hear or have lost their hearing. You put it in and they are able to hear, we have done about nine of that.”