Indiana Lions Eye Bank | News & Success Stories

"Improving the quality of life through eye ation, medical research and education"

Donate Life Float Wins Award at 2014 Rose Parade

Celebrating its 10th annual appearance in the parade, the Donate Life Float once again served as a memorial to organ, eye and tissue donors.

Donate Life 2014 Rose Parade Float Award Winner

The award-winning Donate Life Float, “Light Up the World,” at the 2014 Rose Parade.

The Donate Life Float, with the theme “Light Up the World,” won the Excellence in Presenting Parade Theme Award at the 2014 Rose Parade in Pasadena, CA on New Year’s Day.

In front of a television audience in the millions, the float provided a platform for donors, donor families, living donors and transplant recipients to inspire the world.

Provided by Franciscan Alliance

Michael Henderson of the Indiana Lions Eye Bank and Alice Jenkins of Gift of Hope perform a ceremonial watering of one of the newly planted trees, meant to symbolize growth and hope.

DYER | In honor of organ, eye and tissue donors and recipients, Franciscan Alliance St. Margaret Health Dyer, in conjunction with Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network and the Indiana Lions Eye Bank, conducted a Donate Life Tree Planting Ceremony recently on the hospital grounds.

Linda Kraiko, senior director of patient services, hosted the event, which was presided over by the Rev. Henry Sequeira, hospital chaplain.

Diane Ranta, a registered nurse in the Same Day Surgery unit at the hospital, told the story of her recently deceased husband, Tom, who was able to extend his life thanks to a kidney and pancreas transplant he received.

“We see the last 13 years as a gift of another family’s love,” she said.

The Transplant Games

The 2012 Transplant Games

The 2012 Transplant Games of America were held recently from July 28 – 31 inGrand Rapids, Michigan. The games are a series of athletic events that highlight the lifesaving benefits of organ donation while also building awareness surrounding the need for more registered donors. Thousands of transplant recipients, living donors and donor family members from across the United States participated in this biennial event.

Mike Henderson, ILEB Hospital Development Coordinator and two-time kidney transplant recipient, participated in the Transplant Games for the sixth time.Henderson won a Gold medal in the long jump, softball throw and volleyball. He also won a Silver medal in 3-on-3 basketball and the high jump.

For more information, please visit transplantgamesofamerica.org.

Orbis International and its Flying Eye Hospital

Louis Almeida Cornea Transplant Recipient

The Indiana Lions Eye Bank proudly participates in providing eye tissue to Orbis International and its Flying Eye Hospital. The Orbis Flying Eye Hospital stopped in Indianapolis for a public relations event while on its way to Trujillo, Peru, its last mission for 2011.

The Flying Eye Hospital is an extension of Orbis International; it has flown to 85 different countries since its inception in 1982. It provides eye care and ocular surgeries for several diseases including corneal blindness, as well as training for the local surgeons/physicians in the areas to which it serves.

The Orbis Flying Eye Hospital is just what its name suggests. This DC-10 jet aircraft has been converted to allow for a 48-seat classroom, an exam/laser treatment/computerized surgical training area, a surgical operating suite with sterilization area and a 3-bed recovery room.

More information about Orbis and the Flying Eye Hospital can be found at http://orbis.org

Cornea Transplant Recipient Louis Almeida

Louis Almeida Cornea Transplant Recipient

While on a break from a construction site one sunny afternoon in Quito, Ecuador, a young stone mason shared his story of vision impairment with two brothers, and as a result his life has been changed forever.
Through a collaboration of good will, the Cornea Research Foundation of America, in partnership with the Indiana Lions Eye Bank, Quito Barrio Outreach, an organization that supports poor communities in Quito, Ecuador and several generous church groups in Illinois, Luis Almeida has regained the gift of sight.
While on a church mission trip just outside of Quito, Ecuador, brothers Jim and Jack Herrmann, along with other members of the church mission, befriended an Ecuadorian stone mason named Luis Almeida. Working alongside Luis and other locals to construct a second story of an adult education center, they would all enjoy a beer together after they finished for the day. Although Jim and Jack did not speak Spanish, they immediately bonded with the Spanish-speaking man, his wife Veronica and his two children, Kevin and Camilla.
While on a break one afternoon, Luis pointed to his eyes—trying to communicate that there was a problem. Another man on the mission team, Lupe Alvarez, had helped translate before when they could not get past the language barrier. As Lupe translated, they learned that Luis was almost blind in one eye and could not see well out of the other. The brothers were concerned for Luis and the future of his young family. They soon learned that a Lion’s group had identified that he had a problem with his cornea, the clear window on the front of the eye. Luis shared his worries that his wife and young son would soon become responsible for supporting the family after Luis, only 31 years old, could no longer work due to his debilitating vision loss.
While on the plane home, Jim and Jack could not stop thinking about Luis and his family. What would happen to them if they did not try to help? Unlike the United States, Ecuador does not have the supply of donated corneas to conduct transplants in a reasonable time frame. The more the brothers thought about it, the more they were inspired to help Luis regain his sight. As they had witnessed, he was a good family man; a hard worker whose quality of life was bound to be dramatically altered once he lost his sight completely.  “It was heart-breaking to think this man would soon be blind and unable to support his children” Jim Herrmann commented, “and at the same time knowing that just a few hours away in the United States, we were blessed with the doctors and organizations we knew could help him...we just could not walk away” he added.
Once they arrived back home in Illinois, they went searching for information. They went online and conducted a search for “Quito + Cornea” and the Cornea Research Foundation of America (CRFA) was one of the results. Once they visited www.cornea.org <http://www.cornea.org/> and realized that CRFA was located in an adjacent state, they called Marianne Price, PhD, the executive director and the collaboration to help Luis began.
The Indiana Lions Eye Bank agreed to provide the cornea, eye surgeon Dr. Francis W. Price, Jr. of Price Vision Group and the Central Indiana Surgery Center agreed to waive their fees. Jim and Jack were so happy that their plans to help Luis were coming to fruition. Now, all that was left was raising donations to cover the cost of travel and lodging in Indianapolis during the surgery and obtaining a visa to travel from Ecuador.  Jack Herrmann noted “Once CRFA and Price Vision came aboard, everything else fell into place. We are so grateful to everyone at the Lions, CRFA, and Price Vision for their compassion, professionalism and willingness to help – it has been incredible”.  He added, “Luis will be going home to a grateful family, with renewed hope for his children’s future.  The entire Almeida family believes that a true miracle is happening to them.  They cannot believe that so many people so far away that do not even know them would spend the time and money to help Luis regain his sight.”
Thanks to generous individuals in their community who contributed to pay the travel expenses and Father Don and Father Paddy from Quito Barrio Outreach who helped Luis through the visa process, Luis made it to Indianapolis to receive his cornea transplant surgery and treatment. “We were happy to coordinate this effort to help Luis regain his sight. It is especially heart warming to see all of the individuals and organizations who stepped up to help Luis,” says Marianne Price of CRFA.

Luis has himself reflected upon his experience with the medical staff, commenting shortly after the procedure, “My wife Veronica and I cannot express our thankfulness enough.  My children also understand that I would have surely lost my sight in Ecuador.  This will allow me to continue to work to support our family.  The medical staff has been extremely attentive and friendly, unlike anything I have experienced in Ecuador.  May God bless all of them, all of those that have helped and all of their families for this wonderful gift!

Marianne Price, Ph. D. MBA
Executive Director
Cornea Research Foundation of America

Nurse Grateful for the Gift of Sight

eye transplant newsTo look at Kathy Sojka one can’t miss the joy in her spirit and the gratitude in her heart. After talking to her, one learns quickly that not a day goes by that Sojka doesn't use one of the most precious gifts she has ever received. That gift is the gift of sight!

After battling for decades with a debilitating eye disease, in 2004 Sojka received a cornea transplant.

"The Transplant saved my way of live. The experience was remarkable," she says. "Knowing that someone has given such a great gift still overwhelms me at times."

The 20 year veteran RN of St. Catherine's Emergency Department suffered from Keratoconus, a progressive eye disease in which the normally round cornea thins and begins to bulge into a cone-like shape, causing vision deterioration and eventual blindness.

Struggling with the Disease

After being diagnosed in 1978, she struggled with the disease for more than two decades. Over the course of the years, the disease worsened as well as her vision.

"I remember over compensating a lot. When my son was young, I would dress him in bright colors, like red, so I could make sure I would see him playing in the park," says Sojka, mother of two and grandmother of two.

It was getting to the point that I knew I was going to have to quit my job,"
says Sojka.

The thought of quitting a job that she loves was heart breaking for Sojka.

"Kathy is a very compassionate, caring nurse. I believe this experience has opened her heart to another level." says June Hampsten, RN, nurse manager, Emergency Department.

Enjoying Hobbies, Relishing Life

Sojka is back to enjoying her hobbies of reading, painting and sewing.

"Before my surgery, I was missing out on some of the things I loved to do. Not a day goes by that I haven't learned to appreciate the beauty that life has to offer. I am forever grateful to donor," Sojka says.

"If I wouldn't have had the transplant, I would be disabled. I would not have a job. I would not be able to see the beautiful details of life... such as my grandchild's face, my new grand baby, the leaves on the trees, and all the beauty that life has to offer," Sojka says.

St. Anthony National Donor Sabbath

St AnthonySaint Anthony Medical Center in Crown Point recently celebrated National Donor Sabbath with Mass. Father Tony Janik spearheaded the event that was attended by many staff members along with President David F. Ruskowski.

National Donor Sabbath is part of a donation initiative launched by the United States Department of Health and Human Services in 1997.  Observed on Friday through Sunday two weekends before Thanksgiving, the three-day designation seeks to include the days of worship of major religions practiced in the United States.

Donation and transplant professionals join faith communities to focus on the lifesaving and enhancing gifts passed to others through organ, eye and tissue donation. Many people turn to their faith leaders for help when dealing with life and death issues. Nearly every religion in the United States officially supports organ and tissue donation or supports the individual choices of its members. Those who donate heal and strengthen not just their recipients, but families, friends, and the larger community.

Father Tony stated, “There are more than 100,000 people waiting nationwide for a lifesaving organ transplant. One organ, eye and tissue donor can save or enhance the lives of more than 25 people.”

Susan Colias works in the Employee Assistance Program Department at Saint Anthony and she shared her personal experience as a corneal transplant recipient. She inherited Fuch’s Dystrophy, a genetic eye disease. The disease would eventually start to take away her eyesight in the form of cloudy and painful corneas.

After receiving her corneal transplants in 2005, Susan was able to return to work in a little more than three weeks with crystal clear vision. Susan stated, “When I was off recovering, I would take long walks in a nearby park with my husband, Jim, and Beagle, Indy, and was just amazed at the color of the trees as I had not had clear vision for what seemed like years. I still go out sometimes early in the morning when the sun is coming up and just sit on my steps and enjoy another one of God’s wonders.”

Susan also indicated that through the gift of corneal donation she’s been able to see her three children, Nancy, Meredith and Matt, all graduate from college.  She’s also witnessed her daughter walk down the isle as a beautiful bride and in 2010 looks forward to the birth of her first grandchild.

ILEB would like to thank Father Tony Janik, Susan Colias and the Organ & Tissue Donation Committee at Saint Anthony Medical Center for their support of organ, eye and tissue donation.

Rose Bowl Parade

eye transplant newsThe Rose Bowl Parade had a float sponsored by Donate Life America which was titled "New Life Rises".  This float represented donors and their families from across the U.S.  It was represented in a local level by Lutheran Hospital of Fort Wayne who sponsored a rose for each of their donor families who donated at their facility in 2008.  Each rose vial was personalized for the specific donor family that wished to participate and sent to CA. Joann Nixon, a donor wife and donor mom from Fort Wayne, read each of the names of the donors as the roses were placed onto the float in CA.   

A second set of vials were made for a Donor Ceremony held at Lutheran Heart Pavilion Lobby on Sunday, January 24, 2010 and given to the families as a remembrance of their special person.  Joann was also guest speaker at this ceremony.   Lutheran Hospital has honored their donor families in a very special way through this awe inspiring event.