First published in the Corvallis Gazette Time
June 5, 2003
I had the privilege recently of delivering human ocular tissue to the Lions Eye Bank of Oregon in Portland. The eyes I delivered will be used for research and perhaps to help find better ways to treat macular degeneration or glaucoma, two of the leading causes of blindness.
My contribution was really a minor one. I wasn’t called in the middle of night. I didn’t have to get out of a comfortable bed and drive through the cold rain, as many of my fellow Lions have done. I happened to receive the call on a morning when I was traveling to Portland anyway and all I had to do was leave a couple of hours before I had planned.
My small contribution was the result of much hard work on the part of many people, including the thousands of volunteers in the Lions Club who founded and support the Lions Eye Bank. It’s one of the best eye banks in the world. Among those who help are the local funeral home directors who take responsibility for preparing eyes for transport. In Corvallis, Elaine Farstad worked very hard to set up the courier system for the Corvallis and Mid-Valley Lions Clubs. She and fellow Lions Woody Sommer and Kelly Tharp serve as coordinators to make sure that when the Oregon Lions Eye Bank calls, someone is found who can transport eyes from Corvallis to Salem or Portland, even if it is in the middle of the night.
Because of all those efforts, more people can see. Fewer people are blind. The Lions Eye Bank of Oregon provides transplant and research tissue to facilities all over the world. Doctors come from everywhere to study the transplant techniques pioneered here.
All of the hard work of these volunteers, professionals and practitioners would be wasted without the donors. I hope the family of the person whose eye tissue I took to Portland can take some comfort in knowing that their loved one’s eyes will help others see. But more donors are always needed. Eyes and other organs can help people live longer and better lives. Signing a donor card is not enough. You must talk to your family members and let them know your wishes in case they are ever asked.
F. I. Goldhaber is a Corvallis novelist and the president of the Mid-Valley Lions Club. More information about the Lions Eye Bank of Oregon is available at https://olshf.org/