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Severe weather conditions in US thwart corneal transplants in Ghana

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Cornea Transplant
Cornea Transplant

A planned set of corneal transplants scheduled for early this year has been thwarted by severe weather conditions, which affected eye banks in the United States of America.

The Himalayan Cataract Project (Cure Blindness), a US-based organisation working to end blindness, had scheduled some 20 eye patients in Ghana for free corneal surgeries under a corneal transplant teaching programme.

Dr Geoffery Tabin, Chairman and Co-Founder of the Project, said they had requested for a donation of cornea tissues from the eye banks to restore the sight of 20 blind people but a force majeure, coupled with high demand for the tissues by Americans foiled the exercise.

“We had a record spell of cold weather and there was a huge storm in America which made it difficult for the eye banking team to collect the tissues.

“It was a difficult emotional situation because there were about 35 blind people and we were told 20 of them will get their sights restored. But we were able to get only three corneas and we have to decide on the three who will be lucky to get the tissues,” he told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in an interview on Cape Coast.

A cornea transplant is an operation to remove all or part of a damaged cornea (tissues from the eye) and replace it with healthy new tissues from a donor (a recently dead person).

The corneas are harvested by specialist facilities called eye banks but there is none in Ghana which is why the country relies on the US for the tissues.

Dr Tabin, who is also a Professor of Ophthalmology in Global Medicine, Stanford University, observed that religious and traditional beliefs, as well as government policies against tissue harvesting were frustrating efforts to establish an eye bank in Ghana.

It may be recalled that last year, Cure Blindness partnered the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, Cape Coast Teaching Hospital, and the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi to perform sets of cornea transplants for a total of 22 Ghanaians on the verge of blindness.

The tissues were flown from the US into Ghana, which situation Dr Tabin said could affect the quality of the corneas.
He, therefore, stressed the need for an eye bank in Ghana, indicating efforts were underway to address some of the challenges to enable them to establish one for the country.

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