More cornea donations needed to restore eyesight for poor blind people

(VOVWORLD) - The story of a 7-year-old girl in Hanoi named Hai An who donated her corneas before she died two years ago touched the hearts of millions of people. A growing number of people in Vietnam have decided to follow her example. But with thousands of people suffering from cornea-related diseases, the number of donors is still too small. The HCMC Sponsoring Association for Poor Patients is dedicated to restoring the vision of poor blind people.
More cornea donations needed to restore eyesight for poor blind people - ảnh 1

A patient undergoes a follow-up examination after a cornea transplant. (Photo: VOV)

Pham Van Cuong, a 33-year-old man in An Giang province, for the first time in his life, can apply for a job as a construction worker without receiving a look of pity.

Born into a poor family, Cuong lived with his grandparents when he was small. At the age of 4, while out in the fields with his relatives, he got rice in his right eye and has been partially blind for 29 years.

Thanks to a cornea donation by a cancer patient in Ho Chi Minh City and the sponsorship of the Ho Chi Minh City Sponsoring Association for Poor Patients, Nguyen Trai Hospital gave Cuong a cornea transplant and restored his vision.

“I'm very happy. My eyes were also suffering from other diseases, including cornea dilation. Having good eyesight in both eyes has made it easier for me to find a job,” said Cuong.

47-year-old Nguyen Van Tu of  Hoc Mon district, Ho Chi Minh City, was blinded when a strange object flew into his eye while he was driving a motorbike.

He signed up for a cornea transplant with the Ho Chi Minh City Sponsoring Association for Poor Patients and his turn eventually came. He was given a free cornea transplant and now he has returned to work.

Tu is moved to say, “I feel more confident going out and being with other people. I’m driving a motorbike again and helping my wife run a sidewalk eatery for workers. I’m grateful for the person who donated the cornea that has allowed me to see again.”

Tu and Cuong are two out of thousands of poor blind or visually impaired people lucky enough to have received corneas.

According to the Association, about 2,000 people a year who are blind in one or both eyes due to cornea damage register for a free cornea transplant. But only 2 or 3 people donate corneas, which means no more than 6 people can receive a transplant.   

Tran Thanh Long, the Association’s Chairman, called for more donations so that more poor blind people can regain their eyesight.

More cornea donations needed to restore eyesight for poor blind people - ảnh 2Doctors and medical workers of Nguyen Trai Hospital perform a cornea transplant for a poor patient. (Photo: VOV) 

He says the Association works with doctors and hospitals who are willing to perform free cornea transplant surgeries.

“Our doctors work completely free of charge. They even pay for the patient’s transportation when they come in for a follow-up examination. Sometimes the Association visits transplant patients at their home to see how their lives have changed,” said Long.

Dr. Tran Thanh Danh, Head of the Ophthalmology Department of Nguyen Trai Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, said that in the past decade, his department has transplanted corneas for 49 patients.

He said it’s extremely difficult for doctors to select cornea recipients from the waiting list of thousands of patients. Those who are blind in both eyes and young people who are a burden on their family receive priority.

“I hope more people will donate their organs to those in need, especially to blind people at a very young age,” Danh added.