"They’ve given our child the opportunity to be the boy he wanted to be..."

Andrea Carlson, mother to young Joseph who has been diagnosed with Peter’s Anomaly, talks about the life-changing impact of his corneal transplants.

Gift of Sight – Aug 2018

Charles A. Lucas (Sep 27, 1947 - Mar 26, 1971)

This spring, our family services coordinator received a call from Elaine Assad asking about her late husband’s eye donation which occurred in 1971. Elaine shared that after all of these years, she still thinks about her late husband around the anniversary of his death, and she called the eye bank because she was unsure about some details of his donation.

Elaine was 16 years old when she married 20 year old Charles Lucas on July 23, 1968. Sadly, Charles died suddenly at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics on March 26, 1971, less than three years into their young marriage. Elaine shared that soon after his death, she told the doctor that she wanted to donate his eyes. At that time, the recovery of the eyes and the cornea transplant surgery needed to take place very quickly and with the assistance of the National Eye Bank Network—a nationwide group of ham radio operators. To this day, Elaine is unsure what prompted her to donate his eyes, but believes she was directed to do so in a spiritual way.

Soon after the donation, Elaine called UI Hospitals and Clinics to learn more about the recipients of Charles’ eyes. The hospital stated they were not allowed to give her that information, but suggested she watch for a newspaper article that was scheduled to hit the press. (photo below on left)

A picture of an Iowa City Press Citizen article about Charles A. Lucas, cornea donor

An Iowa City Press-Citizen article on March 26, 1971, titled ‘Blind Boy To Get New Chance at U-Hospital’, answered Elaine’s question. The article chronicles the story of then 5 year old old Martin Madriles from Mexico, who was blinded shortly after birth when tincture of iodine was accidentally applied to his eyes instead of a silver nitrate solution which was commonly placed in the eyes of newborn babies.

In the summer of 1970, Martin was found by Dr. (Do we have a first name?) Yaeger, a dentist from Charles City, Iowa, while on an annual mission trip to remote villages in Mexico. Martin’s eyes were badly disfigured and in danger of infection. Dr. Yaeger and other members of the mission trip sent photos of Martin’s eyes to Dr. Frederick Blodi, then professor and head of Ophthalmology at UI Hospitals and Clinics , to study.

A picture of Charles A. Lucas, cornea donor

Dr. Blodi determined that a cornea transplant was needed to restore Martin’s vision, and time was of the essence as doctors feared that Martin’s eyes would soon rupture. The community rallied together and raised money to fly Martin and his father to Iowa for a transplant.

Following Elaine’s recent call to the Iowa Lions Eye Bank, old records were retrieved from storage and we were able to confirm that the cornea young Martin received to restore his sight was indeed donated by Charles Lucas. Had Elaine not initiated the offer to donate, it may have been weeks, or even longer, before a cornea became available for Martin. Forty-seven years later, Charles’ gift of sight to another is not forgotten; his legacy is remembered and shared.

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Four ILEB corneas restore sight in Swaziland

When former University of Iowa resident and fellow Dr. Matthew Ward needed corneal tissue for transplants during a recent mission trip to Swaziland with The Luke Commission (TLC), he immediately reached out to the Iowa Lions Eye Bank.

Dr. Ward was the cornea fellow at the University of Iowa from 2012 to 2013, and worked very closely with the Iowa Lions Eye Bank during that time. “I consider ILEB to be the best in the business, and feel very fortunate to use ILEB tissue for my patients in private practice,” said Ward.

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Lions’ efforts in 2007 result in new therapy in 2018

Physician clinicians and researchers in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Iowa continue to make important research breakthroughs in the fight to combat Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), a genetically inherited eye disease that causes babies to be born blind or children to go blind before reaching school age.

The Iowa Lions have played an important role in making this happen.

In 2007, researchers at the University joined with the Lions Clubs of Iowa to create Project 3000, the goal of which was to find people born blind or adults who became blind as children, test them, and find the roughly 3,000 people in the U.S. with LCA. The researchers worked with other researchers across the country, who also enlisted their local Lions Clubs in the efforts. The Iowa Lions canvassed their own club communities to locate individuals throughout Iowa who might have LCA, and offer them genetic testing.

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The Iowa Lions

Iowa Lions Eye Bank is extremely proud of our close relationship with the Iowa Lions as we work together to restore and preserve sight. The Iowa Lions support ILEB in a variety of ways including a volunteer transport system that has become an integral part of ILEB’s laboratory operations.

Lions Clubs International is the world’s largest service club organization, with 1.35 million members in more than 46,000 clubs. During an address to the Lions Clubs International in 1925, Helen Keller challenged the Lions to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.” Since that time, Lions Clubs International has worked tirelessly to aid the blind and visually impaired.

You can read more about the Iowa Lions here: Iowa Lions

Who Can Be a Donor?

Anyone can. The great thing about corneal tissue is that everyone is a universal donor. Your blood type does not have to match. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what color your eyes are or how good your eyesight is. Aside from those suffering from infections or a few highly communicable diseases such as HIV or hepatitis, most people are suitable donors.