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Giving the gift of sight for 25 years

The Shah family and Anne Rogan with Governor of Victoria Linda Dessau, His Honor Judge Howard and Dr Graeme Pollock

The Shah family and Anne Rogan with Governor of Victoria Linda Dessau, His Honor Judge Howard and Dr Graeme Pollock

Melbourne’s Lions Eye Donation Service celebrated its 25th anniversary this week with a celebration attended by donor families and recipients, as well as the Governor of Victoria, the Honourable Linda Dessau AM.

Since 1991, the Lions Eye Donation Service has facilitated over 7,500 corneal transplants from over 4,600 donors. “At that time, there were 180 people waiting for a corneal transplant in Victoria,” said Dr Graeme Pollock, Director of the Lions Eye Donation Service. “Today, we are proud to say that most patients referred to us for a corneal transplant will receive a new cornea within weeks.”

The cornea is the clear surface at the front of the eye and is the main focusing element. If the cornea becomes cloudy from disease, injury, infection or any other cause, vision will be dramatically reduced. A corneal transplant is a surgical procedure which replaces a disc-shaped segment of an impaired cornea with a similarly shaped piece of a healthy donor cornea.

The Honourable Linda Dessau AM, Governor of Victoria and Patron of the Centre for Eye Research Australia was a special guest at the event, along with her husband His Honour Judge Anthony Howard. The Governor expressed her deep admiration for the work of the Service over the past 25 years and enjoyed a tour of the Centre for Eye Research Australia laboratories.

A highlight of the event was the heartfelt words from Ms Anne Rogan, whose late partner Christine Walsh donated her corneas last year. “Chris was such a kind, generous person. It makes me so happy to know that somewhere out there is a young man who can see again thanks to her gift.”

Greg and Alison Shah know full well the impact of such a gift. Their seven year-old daughter Sienna received a corneal transplant two years ago.

Mr Shah described the excitement Sienna felt when she received her ‘new eye’. “She still has limited vision in her right eye but that doesn’t stop her from reading, climbing on play equipment and jumping on the trampoline,” he said. When asked what she wants to be when she grows up, Sienna already has a good idea. “An eye doctor!” she exclaims.

The Lions Eye Donation Service is a joint venture between the Lions Clubs of Victoria and Southern New South Wales, the Centre for Eye Research Australia, the University of Melbourne and the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. It routinely provides corneas and sclera for transplantation and research across Victoria and Tasmania.