Cornea Donor Shortage Affects Hawaii Patients

Shawn Wofford
Shawn Wofford
Pat Brown
Pat Brown

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- The Hawaii Lions Eye Bank & Makana Foundation is facing a critical shortage. It needs corneas for patients and some could face a lifetime of blindness because of a shortage of donors.

Cornea transplant surgery has changed life for more than 3,000 Hawaii patients. New laser technology has made the procedure easier, but the Hawaii Eye Bank has had to cancel 13 surgeries in the past few months, because no corneas were available to transplant.

Pat Brown has lived most of her adult life with bad eyesight, caused by a corneal dystrophy. Glasses couldn't correct it.

"I could see figures but I couldn't see your eyes or your nose or your mouth, and if I went anywhere with family I'd have to remember what clothes they were wearing," said Brown.

After transplants in each eye, Pat's life has changed dramatically.

"I'm walking around with a cornea that belonged to someone who was loved and I see birds, I see flowers, I see rainbows, and its only because someone donated their cornea to me," said Brown.

Dr. John Olkowski has state of the art technology that helps Hawaii patients like Pat restore vision.

But, only about half of the necessary corneas are available when needed.

"We normally get about 60 donors a year but for some reason its been dwindling slowly. And, now its become more apparent that a third of all the donors in Hawaii are actually tourist," said Shawn Wofford.

It's a statistic that Brown is urging Hawaii to change.

"Oh, please, please! I am so grateful to whoever donated their relative to the eye bank. It's tremendous, to be able to see. To put lipstick on, on my goodness how can someone even think of not donating."

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