Cornea Donation and Transplantation Brings New Connection to Lifelong Friends

Tom and Lynn's Story

A picture of James Neisz, cornea donor

”I know who my donor is.”

These were the first words cornea recipient Lynn Hauser said during a phone call to the Iowa Lions Eye Bank family services coordinator, Deb Schuett. Throughout her ten years as family services coordinator, Deb has had very few calls where a recipient believed to know their donor, and never were their suspicions correct.

Following this particular phone call, Deb reviewed the details of Lynn’s cornea transplant performed in December 2017 and verified that he was right. Lynn had correctly identified his donor as Pamela White, the wife of one of Lynn’s oldest friends, Tom White.

Tom and Lynn grew up just six blocks from each other in Davenport, Iowa, attended the same schools and played baseball together. They have maintained a lifelong friendship and both enjoy giving back to their community.

Click here to read more of Tom and Lynn's donation story.

"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 – Nov 2018

James Neisz (Sept 23, 1968 – Apr 12, 2018)

A picture of James Neisz, cornea donor

James Neisz, of Arthur, IA, passed away unexpectedly on Thursday, April 12, 2018.

James was happily married to the love of his life, Tanya, and had eight children, who were his pride and joy. James loved fishing and enjoyed anything to do with cars, old and new. Gathering with his family and friends brought great happiness to James, and he is dearly missed by all who knew and loved him.

James was a giving and loving person in life, so his family knew that he would want to be an eye and tissue donor after his death. One of James’s corneas was donated to Jim, a 77-year-old man from Elmwood, Iowa.

Soon after his generous donation, James’s daughter Melody received a letter from Jim and his wife Mary, expressing their gratitude for the gift of sight. Jim was born with glaucoma and had his left eye removed when he was only eight-years-old. James’s cornea was transplanted into Jim’s right eye, and soon he will be fitted with a special contact that will greatly improve his vision and allow him to live his full life again by enabling him to go to church, the lodge, and visit his family.

Melody promptly responded to Jim and Mary with thanks for their letter. Melody shared that Jim’s transplant took place on her sister’s birthday, and that her grandmother often called James “Jim” or “Jimmy” as a nickname which made the transplant story even more special.

Melody said that it gives her and her family great joy and comfort during this time of sadness to know that Jim will now be able to see and fully enjoy his life because of her father’s selfless act of cornea donation.

Click here to read more Gift of Sight stories..

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.

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