An Eye Bank is an institution which may be a government or a non-government organization that is responsible for collecting and processing eyes (and corneas), donated voluntarily by people upon death. They are also responsible for storing these donated eyes and corneas until use, and for distributing them to trained corneal transplant surgeons.
Eye Banks are relatively autonomous, voluntary community-based organisations which are usually associated with a hospital. Most Eye Banks are located either in a large hospital set up (Example National Eye Bank at AIIMS) or may be stand-alone, as in case of several non-profit organizations.
Funding for Eye Banks is derived from Government, International Non-Governmental Organizations and private donors and charitable trusts. Part of the operating expenses of Eye Banks are covered by processing fees (usually paid by upper socio-economic groups individually, and subsidized by the government for lower socio-economic group) as well as donations.
Where was the first Eye Bank?
In 1944, the first Eye Bank was started in New York City by Dr. Townley Paton and Dr. John MacLean. The first Eye Bank in India was founded in Regional Institute of Ophthalmology, Chennai in 1945 by Dr. RES Muthiah. Since then, eye surgeons and citizen activist alike have campaign extensively to generate awareness about eye donation in their local communities, with an aim to alleviate corneal blindness worldwide.
What is the function of an Eye Bank?
The Eye Bank is responsible for various activities about eye donation. The most important ones in this regard are mentioned below:
- Harvesting of eyes/ corneas that is, a collection of donor’s eyes, as well as retrieval of corneas
- Grading of tissue, its evaluation including serology and microbiology
- Processing of eyeballs for appropriate storage and use
- Distribution of Corneal tissues to qualified corneal transplant surgeons to ensure maximum utilization of donated corneas
- Storage and distribution of other parts of the eye for therapeutic and research use: For example, limbus and sclera, in addition to the cornea
- Training of Eye Bank technicians, grief counselors & even corneal surgeons in latest techniques of corneal retrieval, preservation, and utilization
- Promote public relation activities and raise awareness about eye donation and its activities
- Provide eye tissues for training & research as well as for transplants and other surgeries.
What are the various divisions or departments of the Eye Bank?
The Eye Bank is divided into various departments for administrative ease and for ensuring its smooth and proper functioning. The various departments include:
- Technical Department: Its responsibilities include the following functions.
- Tissue Recovery, cornea retrieval
- Processing and distribution
- Preparing tissue for various corneal transplant procedures
- Grading of corneal tissue
- Storage of tissues including cornea, sclera, and limbus
- Distribution of corneas and other tissues to hospitals, clinics and institutions performing corneal transplants, and other surgeries that require donated tissue
- Promotion of research in Eye Banking and transplantation
- Providing space, technology, and tissue for research purposes
- Donor Development: Its responsibilities include the following functions.
- Promotion of awareness about Eye Bank, organ donation through community outreach including television and radio advertisements, hoardings and billboards and public awareness lectures
- Strengthen relationships with the community, hospitals, hospices, and other non-governmental organizations working towards the promotion of eye donation.
- Provide support and grief counseling to donor families during and also after the cornea retrieval.
- Quality Control: Its responsibilities include the following functions.
- Ensures that proper standards are met during all processes of tissue handling including cornea retrieval, grading, processing and distribution
- Strict adherence to quality standards prescribed by the EBAI, and to ensure cooperation with EBAI during compliance checks
- Teaching and Training: Its responsibilities include the following functions.
- Teaching and training of Eye Bank personnel, including technicians and counselors. Some Eye Banks are also involved in the training of eye surgeons who are super specializing in corneal transplant.
- Lectures and community outreach by Eye Bank personnel and community leaders to increase awareness about eye donation and Eye Banking.
- Most Eye Banks also hold lectures of public interest like eye care and prevention of blindness.
What is the Eye Bank Association of India?
The Eye Bank Association of India, the EBAI, is the apex body that is responsible for coordinating the efforts of all Eye Banks and citizens who aim to promote eye donation. It was founded in 1989 with an aim to grant a further impetus to the eye donation movement. Like its American counterpart, the Eye Bank Association of America, EBAA, the EBAI is responsible for establishing comprehensive medical standards for Eye Banks all over India. EBAI also has carried out standardized the training and certification of Eye Bank technicians and counselors all across the country. The EBAI is the national accrediting agency for Eye Banks and evaluates each Eye Bank regularly to ensure the quality standards required to make eye donation and corneal transplantation a safe and comfortable process.
The very useful Hospital Cornea Retrieval Program was initiated in 1991 under the aegis of the Eye Bank Association of India. The EBAI formulated the Eye Banking Medical standards in association with Ministry of Health & Family welfare in 1999.
The objectives of the EBAI as mentioned on its website are as follows:
- Create awareness about eye donation
- Augment quality and quantity of corneas collected
- Evolve and implement uniform medical and operational standards and practices which are on par with international standards
- Act as a resource center for all Eye Banks in the country
What are the Eye Banks in Delhi?
The complete list of Eye Banks in India with phone numbers is available at http://www.myeyeworld.com/files/eyebanks.htm
The list of all the Eye Banks in Delhi and their contact information is available at http://delhi.gov.in/wps/wcm/connect/doit/Delhi+Govt/Delhi+Home/Departments/Citizen+Services/Important+Telephone+Numbers/Eye+Banks.
In case you are interested in pledging your eyes for donation or want to know more about eye donation and how you can contribute to this immensely selfless charity, please refer to the article on eye donation on this website, which will deal with all your questions and fears. You may also speak to an Eye Bank counselor on the phone, or in person at the Eye Bank near you.