The main reason that I do this job is that it gives me the ability to be a part of an organization that positively impacts the lives of families in countries all over the world. Eyesight is often taken for granted when it functions properly, but once it begins to wane every aspect of someone’s life can be impacted. To know that I’m a part of an organization that improves the quality of life for entire families is very rewarding.
The most important thing that I do in my workday is performing insitu-procedures. The corneas that are acquired during the procedure will be given to individuals that need a corneal transplant.
The best part of my job is being able to interact with the families of corneal donors and seeing how their decision to donate their family member’s corneas helped them find solace during a time of immeasurable pain and sadness.
“My mother passed away when I was a child. She could only donate her eyes because of the cancer. I started doing this job out of the curiosity that grew out of that experience. At the time I didn’t understand what it meant to donate.
Her cancer began when she was only 25, and she passed away at the tender age of 38. She was a wife, a mother of two girls, and a wonderful nurse. I have long heard stories of the kind things she did for others throughout the years.
I was always so curious about who she helped last. In my own way, I guess I am helping do the last good deed my sweet mother fulfilled on this earth.
I love what I do. What I love even more is teaching people how to do recoveries precisely and in a sterile fashion. They can take that knowledge and have an impact on the world of corneal transplants.
We are all links in a chain that can work together to improve the gift of sight.”
“There were two tiny kittens left in a landfill. They were only about 2 weeks old, and they were covered in fleas and brake fluid. I’m working from home during Covid, so I was able to take them in and bottle feed them. I named them Tiger and Rocky.
Once they were clean, I noticed their eyes did not look normal. I contacted Kitty Kat Haven, and they helped me see an eye specialist. We found out from the specialist that their eyelids did not form. This caused their hair to rub their corneas and irritate the eyes.
Without expensive surgery, the kittens would go blind, making it extremely difficult for them to be adopted. I was able to foster them until they reached 14 weeks, putting ointment in their eyes twice a day to prevent further damage to their eyes.
They are now with another foster family who will care for them until they have surgery. While enhancing human lives through my work with eye donation, I was able to save two kittens’ eyes.”
Bob Randolph had a magnetic personality and an adventurous spirit. “There wasn’t anything that wasn’t fun with Bob,” says his wife, Caroline. “Every day was an adventure.”
Bob and Caroline met on a blind date in California, and they were married in Las Vegas just a few months later. “He had the most beautiful blue eyes. He had the best sense of humor.Everyone loved him,” Caroline remembers. “Bob had this way of making others feel important and at ease.
”Bob loved camping, was a voracious reader, and loved finding excitement in everyday life. “On the weekends, we would get in the car, pick a direction, and just drive. We loved stopping at mom and pop restaurants we’d find along the way,” says Caroline.
Bob served in Vietnam and Desert Storm as a Navy corpsman, and he was EMS coordinator for three military bases. “He was a career military man, just like his father. His job was to heal,” said Caroline, who herself was an EMT and a nurse’s aid. Following his military service, Bob was a phlebotomist at the VA hospital. (more…)
Advancing Sight Network ships corneal tissue to 49 states and 56 countries so people can receive sight-saving corneal transplants. Delta cargo agent Lorenzo Dent makes sure the eye tissue makes it to the right place. He knows exactly how important it is to the person awaiting surgery.
“I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes,” he says. “During this time, the vision in my right eye was very blurry.”
Lorenzo’s other eye was already weak from glaucoma, and his doctors felt it was urgent to correct his vision as much as possible. “I couldn’t really see clearly at all,” Lorenzo says. “I couldn’t drive anymore. I had to use the assistant devices on my phone just to read a text.I had to use a magnifying glass at work.”
Lorenzo hated to be dependent on others, but his worsening vision left him no choice.
“I had to depend on everyone around me just to survive,” Lorenzo remembers. “During this time in my life, everything took 300% more effort to do simple things. It left me in a place of hopelessness.” (more…)
During my military career, I had a number of duties including preparing soldiers for deployments. As platoon sergeant and medical specialist, I performed medical and drug screenings.A fellow soldier worked at Advancing Sight, which was then called the Alabama Eye Bank. We talked about how they helped patients across the world, and that opened my eyes to the gift that donors and their families provided.After observing several eye tissue recoveries, I knew this was the next step in my career. That was 11 years ago, and I’m still going strong.The most important part of my job is to recover the eye tissue to the best of my ability so it can be used to restore eyesight. I always tell families, “thank you so much for your donation and your gift of sight during this difficult time. You and your family are greatly appreciated.” I also explain the process and let them know their loved one will be treated with the utmost dignity and respect.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — August 2020 — Two Alabama-based organizations are partnering to find cures for common diseases that cause blindness for millions of people worldwide.
In an effort to help medical researchers develop new treatments and cures for blinding eye diseases, Advancing Sight Network and Kailos Genetics created the OcularGeneScreen, a new genetic screening panel, to be used with eye tissue from post-mortem eye donors. The screening will help determine which genes are associated with eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, and Fuch’s Dystrophy.
“These diseases cause a huge decline in quality of life for so many people,” says Dr. Gregory Grossman, Advancing Sight Network’s Chief Scientific Officer. “By identifying the genes involved, we’re taking a huge step forward in being able to find cures.”
Advancing Sight Network is a nonprofit organization that has served Alabama for more than 50 years. In addition to providing eye tissue for corneal transplants, the organization invests in medical research in hopes of restoring eyesight to individuals impacted by eye disease. (more…)
Dr. Pacha is proud of his daughter, Dima McCuiston, who is partner relations manager at Advancing Sight Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring eyesight through corneal transplantation and ocular research.
An experience with organ donation during his first year of general surgery rotation made a lasting impression on Dr. Mamoun Pacha. It was 1976, and Dr. Pacha received a phone call from Dr. Johanssen, chief of the Renal Transplant Department at the University of Illinois. “Be ready,” she told him. They would be driving several hours to recover kidneys from an organ donor.
Dr. Pacha was nervous about assisting in such an important procedure, but he knew Dr. Johanssen was one of the most respected physicians in the field of surgery and transplantation.
As Dr. Pacha assisted in recovering the kidneys, he remembers another doctor at the head of the table who was recovering the donor’s eyes. He said to Pacha, “I have some important news to deliver to some nice people today.”
Back in Chicago, a nine-year-old Latino boy had been waiting on a compatible kidney donor for several years. He developed renal disease at a young age, and a transplant was his best hope. Dr. Pacha assisted Dr. Johanssen as they took the donor kidneys and performed a successful transplant for the little boy.
When Dr. Pacha checked on the young transplant recipient, a nurse shared a funny story. The boy had been so excited to use the bathroom after the surgery. “Urination was a privilege for him,” said Dr. Pacha. (more…)
Jennifer stood in a hospital room with her brothers, making the difficult decision to take their mother off life support. Her mom had a number of health issues at the time, and Jennifer and her brothers had already given up on the idea of organ donation.
“I remember when I was a girl, my mom said she wanted to donate her body to science,” Jennifer recalls. “She wanted to do that so she could help others.”
As she was leaving the hospital after her mother passed, Jennifer got a surprising call asking if she would be willing to donate her mom’s corneas. “I was so excited to get that call. It was an easy decision,” she remembers. “We were not on the fence at all.”
As Jennifer and her brothers were saying goodbye to their mother, Howell Bigham was preparing for cornea transplant surgery. Howell struggled with Fuch’s dystrophy, an eye disease that can lead to vision loss, for years. “It reached the point where I was almost legally blind,” says Howell. “It was unsafe for me to drive.
Howell knew it was time to consider surgery when it became difficult to enjoy his favorite activities like reading, writing, and yard work. His surgeon, Dr. John Parker, successfully performed corneal transplants in both eyes, and Howell was able to see clearly for the first time in years. (more…)
Judy Wilson is a woman on the go. Between her two passions, world travel and her family, Judy doesn’t have the time or patience for anything to hold her back. She spent her life making (and achieving) incredible goals, like her dreams of snow skiing with each of her grandchildren.
When she was diagnosed with Fuchs’ dystrophy, a disease that ultimately leads to vision loss, in 2005, her life didn’t change. “I wasn’t experiencing vision loss or pain. I just knew that eventually, it would have to be taken care of,” remembers Judy.
Ten years later, Judy’s diagnosis was mentioned once again during a screening for cataracts. “Surely you know that you have Fuchs’,” said her doctor. Judy’s response: “Is that bad?”
Judy knew she had to take this seriously. She received a “nudge from God” when her neighbor recommended a visit to Dr. Jack Parker at Parker Cornea. She still remembers telling Dr. Parker in their first meeting, “I only have two eyes. I’ll go to the Netherlands if it means having this surgery done well!”
As it turns out, that trans-Atlantic trip was not going to be a necessary one. Dr. Parker was a perfect fit for her most important requirement: a doctor with experience. Years of training, thousands of surgeries and careful attention to detail brought Dr. Parker to the top of her list. (more…)