The cornea is the transparent front part of the eye that covers the iris, pupil, and anterior chamber.
The eyes are the windows to the soul. When the cornea is diseased or suffers from lesion caused by trauma to make it impossible for the light to go through and reach the light-sensitive retina, bad vision or blindness might occur to accordingly impair the visual acuity and life. Transplantation helps remove the diseased corneal tissue and replace it with the donor’s cornea. Donating the cornea helps improve another person's quality of life; it is also a priceless gift for the recipient as the latter can see again.
The technique required to perform the whole eyeball transplantation is not available yet at the moment. Only transplantation of the cornea is possible now. When the whole eyeball is donated, besides the cornea that will be transplanted, the iris (commonly known as “eye white”) will be kept separately so that it can be used in patients with needs during surgery.
There are no particular age limits for cornea donors. The cornea from a donor under the age of two is suitable for use in a recipient also under the age of two.
The cornea cannot be donated live. Except for patients with infectious diseases such as AIDS or Hepatitis C and those with prior cornea or other eye surgeries and determined by the ophthalmologist to be unfit, most people are suitable donors, including those with myopia, hyperopia, or cataract, of the cornea. In Taiwan, carriers of Hepatitis B can also donate their cornea to recipients who are HBsAg positive or HBsAb positive.
All donations are anonymous. Recipients can write to the donor family through related coordinators at the hospital to express their gratitude.
Removal of the eyes will take place within several hours following death. Once removed from the donor's eye, the cornea is about the size of a contact lens. When removing the eyeball, however, the whole eyeball is extracted.
The remains of the donor will be properly protected following removal of the eyes. After the removal of either the cornea or the eyeball, replacement tissue will be used for the benefit of the donor's appearance and integrity.
The Eye Bank keeps the removed cornea in optisol in order to keep the cells inside the cornea viable for 14 days and most transplantation procedures take place within one week following the removal.