Ever since the Lions Medical Eye Bank and Research Center of Eastern Virginia was founded in 1978, Virginia Eye Consultants has played an integral role assisting with harvesting and evaluating tissue from over 21,000 donors to be used for corneal transplants, glaucoma surgery and other conditions.
Our director of operations, Teresa Cartwright, recently attended the annual donor luncheon and was moved to learn that, compared to other regions in the United States; the Hampton Roads area has the highest rate of organ donation per capita in the country.
One family who spoke at the luncheon represented a young man in his 30s who lost his life in 2015 following a four-wheeler accident. He was a son, a father, a brother and a friend. Because he checked the organ donor box on his license, his family granted his wishes and donated his organs. To date, nine people are seeing — and living — because of him. He lives on in their lives.
Another Virginia Eye Consultants’ patient spoke to tell her story of living with corneal disease. She did not have insurance so few doctors would see her and she felt hopeless. Her feelings of sadness multiplied as her sister was dying from breast cancer. Her sister was her best friend and her final wish was to donate her corneas for transplant to restore her vision.
Teresa recalls the day the Lions Eye Bank called Virginia Eye Consultants to request an emergency, charity surgery for this patient. Dr. Sheppard made it a priority to remove all obstacles to grant this request. Within 4 days, she was in our operating room. In her sister’s honor, they played her favorite music during surgery.
We perform surgeries that require organ donation every day. To be on the other side in a room full of family members and loved ones of organ donors and recipients was humbling and inspiring. Teresa came back to the office and shared with our staff: “You never know whose lives you have touched or to the extent you have touched them, but trust me when I tell you we are touching lives every day.”
We are grateful for the work the Lions Medical Eye Bank and Research Center of Eastern Virginia does that allows us to help make a difference for the people in our community.