Dr. Wajid Ali Khan hears all the heart-wrenching stories.
A son wants to donate one of his corneas so his father can see again. A distraught mother doesn’t know how she will care for her children if she can’t see. A husband is the lone bread-winner of the family, but his job is in jeopardy because of poor vision.
Dr. Khan is the Chief of Medical Services at Al-Shifa Trust Eye Hospital in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, a country where the demand for corneal transplantation is staggering. As one of the nation’s busiest medical centers, Al-Shifa surgeons perform more than 800 transplants a year, regularly using tissue prepared and shipped by Eversight.
But for every person Dr. Khan and his staff help, an estimated 250,000 more are still in need. Dr. Khan says his patients wait up to four years for a cornea transplant.
“The demand is huge, but we are very grateful for donors and a nonprofit organization like Eversight that supplies corneas to our region,” Dr. Khan said. “When I am able to help my patients with the gift of sight, I see how it positively impacts their lives and give them a whole new outlook on life.”
Eversight has provided tissue to Dr. Khan for years, but the overwhelming need demanded a long-term humanitarian solution.
Eversight, Dr. Khan and other leading medical professionals and vision health organizations have joined forces to build a sustainable eye banking system in the region. Three eye banking facilities spread throughout the country, each with the capabilities to evaluate, prepare and distribute locally donated corneal tissue, are under construction following Eversight guidelines and protocols.
During the summer, Eversight global development leaders Collin Ross and Erik Hellier traveled to Pakistan to observe the construction under progress. They also received International Invited Speakers Awards, and Ross was presented with a Distinguished Service Award from the Cornea Association of Pakistan.
“The awards were a great honor and a sign of the strong partnerships we’ve built in the region,” Ross said. “But the real highlight was seeing the eye banks that are being built. Years of planning have led to this point, and now we are poised to expand access to cornea transplants in a place where it’s nearly absent.”
As the eye banks near completion, the focus of the project turns to creating public awareness and support for eye donation. Once the number of donors increases in the region, Dr. Khan can turn more stories into tales of triumph.
“We are very appreciative of Eversight and their support,” Dr. Kahn said. “I’ve seen their professionalism and efficiency up close, and our goal is to one day achieve the same level of expertise and effectiveness. Once we do, I know we’ll be able reach more of the people who desperately need our help.”