Oklahoma Lions Service Foundation

Making a Difference One Life at a Time!

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Oklahoma Lions Eye Bank
Our History

In 1957 Lions of Oklahoma at the State Convention voted unanimously to establish the Oklahoma Lions Eye Bank. The next step was the passage of a bill by state legislators to create a low to allow eye and organ donation after death. Lions across the state lobbied legislators at the State Capitol for passage of the bill to become law.

The Lions Eye Bank opened an office in November, 1957 at University Hospital with one employee, medical director, and ophthalmology residents to recover Oklahoma Donated corneas. The first cornea transplants were for a young man age 17 and a young woman age 14. The corneas were donated by a Korean War Veteran. He was a patient at University Hospital.

In 1961 the Eye Bank Association of America was established and the Oklahoma Lions Eye Bank became a charter member. The EBAA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the restoration of sight through promotion and advancement of eye banking. The organization provides medical standards, policies and procedures, education and certification for Eye Banks, technicians, medical directors, and the executive director. The Lions Eye bank is inspected and certified every three years depending on inspection results.

Our Mission

The mission of the Oklahoma Lions Eye Bank is to recover and provide corneas for cornea transplants for Oklahomans on the cornea surgery waiting lists. The Eye Bank provides corneas not suitable for transplant for cornea rim research at the Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. The Lions Eye Bank is the only Eye Bank in Oklahoma working to provide corneas to Cornea Surgeons across our state.

Organ Donations

A Certified Eye Bank Technician must retrieve the cornea within a six-hour period after the death of the donor. Donor screening including medical history, serology results, cornea evaluation and other relevant information must be completed before cornea tissue is released for surgery. When the cornea becomes available, the eye bank notifies the surgeon that has the next patient on the eye bank waiting list. The surgeon accepts the tissue and contacts the recipient to schedule the corneal transplant. If the cornea cannot be placed locally, the eye bank will contact other eye banks to export the cornea tissue.

Since the establishment of the Oklahoma Lions Eye Bank, over 24,000 corneas have been donated resulting in approximately 20,000 successful corneal transplant surgeries. Corneas that are not suitable for transplantation are use to provide sclera for additional eye procedures and for ocular research.

About Corneal Transplants

First performed in 1905, the corneal transplant is the oldest organ transplant procedure currently performed. Over 45,000 people receive the gift of sight each year due to a corneal transplant. Compare this to the combined total of all other organ transplants in a given year of approximately 20,000. According to the Eye Bank Association of America web site, over 700,000 people have had their sight restored since 1961.

A corneal transplant, also known as a corneal graft, or as a penetrating keratoplasty, involves the removal of the central portion (called a button) of the diseased cornea and replacing it with a matched donor button of cornea. Corneal grafts are also performed on patients with damaged or scarred corneas that prevent acceptable vision. Scarring may result from disease or trauma.

Over 90% of the corneal grafts are successful with some studies reporting 97% to 99% success rates at 5 and 10 years (Kirkness et al 1990; Troutman and Lawless 1987). Recipients have ranged in age from 9 days to 103 years.

The mother of a corneal transplant recipient shares her feelings about the work of the Oklahoma Lions Eye Bank:

"Benjaminís blue eyes. It has been 17 years since his corneal transplants in infancy, and I have said more silent prayers of thanksgiving than I can count. Who is this young man with precious eyes? An honor student. A voracious reader. A summer volunteer at the library. A lover of maps and history. A budding young rock musician and driver of a vintage VW beetle. A blue belt student of Taekwondo. An Eagle Scout who built an outdoor science classroom. Benís blue eyes are beyond precious. They are the most profound gift one family could ever give another: Life after death.

- Benjaminís Mom

New Building

On September 6, 2011 a campaign to raise funds to build a new Eye Bank building was launched. The present building is 60 years old and floods during heavy rains. The roof is flat and leaks. Also, with the continued growth of the Eye Bank, more offices and a larger lab are greatly needed.

The Oklahoma City Downtown Lions Club challenged Oklahoma Lions, and Lions Clubs to raise funds to build a new Eye Bank Building. The OKC Downtown Club put up a $100,000 match for funds raised by Lions. By December 31st the Lions Clubs and members raised $109,000. Additional funds are needed to build the medical facility at a cost of $800,000.