Shining through it all.
2020 Impact Report
In 2020, there were moments when everything changed, and the COVID-19 pandemic became real. One of them took place March 18, 2020.
U.S. cornea transplants were immediately halted. No one knew how long it would last.
With sacrifices, innovation and steadfast determination, we kept hope in sight.
We faced the challenges in 2020, and saw them through—to serve our surgeons, carry on the need for research, and ensure our mission and impact into the future.
Most of all, we carried through on our commitments to each other, and the donor families and patients who need us.
Along the way, there were so many shining moments.
These moments reflected the best of who we are as an Eversight community, and what we do when it matters most.
“In moments of hardship, I try to look for beauty wherever I can find it. Today, it was a letter from Eversight. My daughter, Katherine, died a few weeks ago at just 22. She was a donor, and gave two people a rare gift: the gift of sight. I’ll never be over her loss, but am so proud of her for this selfless choice. Eversight brings miracles to a world desperate for hope.”
We responded quickly to the crisis.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus and coronavirus cases rapidly spread. No one knew when transplants might resume.
The financial impact was immediate. Providing for cornea transplantation accounts for 94 percent of our operating revenue. Like many nonprofits, we canceled fundraisers we count on to support our work. That included our annual gala, our largest annual fundraiser to help low-income patients. Meanwhile the pandemic was eliminating jobs and health insurance coverage at historic rates across the country.
Even with no revenue coming in, we developed new protocols, testing, training and readiness to meet the demand once transplants could resume.
In June, we went above and beyond regulatory guidance and began testing potential surgical tissue donors for SARS-CoV-2.
Our staff’s expertise and our rigorous standards helped ensure patient safety and the safety of donors' gifts of tissue for transplantation, once transplants could resume.
We innovated through it all.
In this new physically distanced world, we quickly developed and began offering virtual webinars to help surgeons stay on top of evolving technology and COVID-19 science and safety.
We became the first eye bank to develop virtual wet lab training for surgeons to practice their surgical techniques. We provided the technology for surgeons, wherever they are in the world, to come together online and practice with individualized real-time guidance from leading surgeon instructors.
We produced the research the world needed.
Can COVID-19 be transmitted through the eye?
With grant support from the Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA), the National Eye Institute and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Eversight embarked on answering that critical question.
From our Center for Vision and Eye Banking Research in Cleveland, we organized with research partners at Chicago Cornea Consultants and Rush University, Kellogg Eye Center and the University of Michigan Medical School, and Wayne State University. Our work took place in Cleveland, Chicago, Ann Arbor and in New Jersey—all heavily impacted by COVID-19.
By October, our findings showed a small but noteworthy prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in ocular tissues from individuals who died from COVID-19.
Our research continues as it must, for all those in need of safe sight-restoring transplants and for all those awaiting a cure for non-corneal blindness.
More than 640 surgeons and other clinicians received training—more than doubling our impact over any prior year.
We worked with surgeons in 27 countries to provide the gift of sight for those in need.
We overcame the challenges internationally.
In South Korea, we maintained uninterrupted services to surgeons and patients throughout the pandemic, to provide for a record 569 sight-restoring cornea transplants.
In Pakistan, more shining moments emerged—even while the pandemic suspended most of our work to help the nation develop its eye bank program.
The new Al Shifa Eye Bank in Rawalpindi worked with its first eye tissue donor in July. We collaborated with Al Shifa staff on optimizing donor family and recipient communications, and supported their first-ever public outreach campaign.
Across the country, our Lions Clubs partners were forced to cancel breakfasts, golf events and dinners that bring communities together and raise support for our work. Despite their own challenges, every message and contribution they shared provided inspiration throughout the year, like this note we received from one of our Lions partners:
“Our Lions Club wishes to assist you with the enclosed check. We know it is not much but our hope is it will help in some way to get you through these trying times. You do great work and Lions want you to continue as best as you can.”
In New Jersey, Lions came together across three districts and the state Lions Charitable Foundation to fund tissue recovery kits for Eversight’s clinical teams.
Meanwhile, foundations and businesses like the Edward N. & Della L. Thome Memorial Foundation, the Connecticut Lions Eye Research Foundation, the Connecticut Eye Bank and Visual Research Foundation, the Michigan Gateway Community Foundation, the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation and the Kearney Bank Foundation provided major support to ensure our interrupted clinical operations.
Others like the Amboy Foundation, Bausch Foundation and Citta Foundation provided for clinical operations and Gift of Sight funding to help patients in dire financial situations receive the sight-restoring transplants they need.
So many Lions, families, recipients and advocates sent messages with their charitable gifts that provided for so many moments of joy and gratitude.