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Eye donations fail to meet high demand in Vietnam

One cornea donor can bring light to two blind persons.
One cornea donor can bring light to two blind persons.

From 2007 to 2018, the eyes of 494 donors have enabled blind people to see, but thousands remain in darkness.
Over the last decade, over 35,000 blind people have registered as recipients for cornea donations that can enable them to gain the gift of sight.

The 494 deceased donors from 15 provinces have met 14 percent of registered demand, so thousands are awaiting their chance to see the light of the day.

The Central Eye Hospital in Hanoi has collected and grafted corneas for hundreds of blind patients.

Nguyen Huu Hoang, Director of the Eye Bank at the hospital, said that cornea transplants are the only method in the world to help people with corneal pathology disease to obtain vision.

It is estimated that Vietnam has over 200,000 blind people suffering from corneal pathologies who require cornea transplants. At the Central Eye Hospital, the list of people waiting for corneal transplants is almost 1,000 and growing.

Inspiring pioneer

In 2006, Vietnam’s National Assembly enacted the law on tissue and organ transplantation.

Nguyen Thi Hoa from the northern Ninh Binh Province was the first person to donate corneas in Vietnam in 2007. Since then, many have followed in her footsteps, especially in her native place.

Since 2007, Ninh Binh, especially Kim Son District, has been the most prolific eye donor in the country. The eye donation movement in Kim Son has formed a network of collaborators and volunteers who work on raising awareness of this issue.

Inspired by the people of Ninh Binh, other localities joined the movement.

In May 2009, the first Eye Bank in Vietnam started its campaign to mobilize corneal donations. The Eye Bank receives, assesses, preserves and coordinates the donation of corneas.

The cornea, the clear tissue covering the front of the eye, which is a focusing element of the eye. If the cornea becomes cloudy, one’s vision is dramatically reduced or lost. This loss of the vision is known as corneal blindness.

Cornea has to be harvested from the donor within 48 hours of death. The cornea collection happens in minutes, without compromising the shape of the donor’s eyes, or affecting the funeral of the deceased.

Cornea after collection is preserved at the Eye Bank and then grafted for those with corneal malfunctions. One cornea donor can help two blind persons see.

In Hanoi, organ donors can go to the Viet Duc Hospital in Hoan Kiem District, while HCMC receives organ donations at the Cho Ray Hospital, District 5.