Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences
The Great Plains Lions Eye Bank, Inc. (GPLEB) is a non-profit organization founded and chartered on January 21, 1974 by the Lions Clubs of District 2-T2 of Lions International. The GPLEB has been affiliated with the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) since its inception. Its mission and goals, in addition to helping reduce the waiting list for corneal transplant surgery, include:
- Obtain quality tissue for those with corneal blindness in our district, state, nation and world.
- Develop educational programs promoting eye donor awareness
- Support health care professionals and donors families in the eye donation process, and Promote research for the prevention of blindness
TTUHSC and the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences has graciously provided the space, utilities, access to the vast medical system in a university setting and a Medical Director for almost 30 years now.
Founded by the Lions of District 2-T2, the GPLEB encompasses 22 counties surrounding and including Lubbock County. The Lions are dedicated to their eye bank which has served the good people of West Texas and the South Plains for almost 30 years. Being locally owned and driven, we are home-town people taking care of home-town people, not a satellite office in West Texas operating under the corporate scheme of a major metropolitan city.
The “Gift of Sight” is pure and simple! It‘s the MOST precious of all human gifts; yet, thousands of people stand to lose that gift each year because not enough of us are willing to pass it on, as a gift is meant to be. As an active, fully accredited member of the Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA), we join together in promoting eye donor awareness and education in the critical, urgent and on-going need of eye donation.
We have recently undergone our triennial site visit inspection from the EBAA (May 2002) and we are very proud to announce that our Eye Bank passed their inspection with a whopping 100% compliance score! Recently, in June of 2003, we underwent another surprise inspection from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and results from that inspection revealed no violations or deficiencies in any areas. The site visit inspection from the EBAA is required for membership in the association and determines if the member eye bank is following the Medical Standard set forth in eye donation, recovery of donated eyes, processing of eyes, medical/technical evaluation, distribution and quality assurance/quality control.
Over 47,000 corneal transplants are performed annually. 84 corneal transplants were performed in our local medical facilities in 2002. Transplant centers, who perform corneal transplants in our region, include University Medical Center, Covenant Medical Center, Covenant Lakeside and Covenant Surgi-Center. Our local fellowship trained corneal surgeons (MD‘s) include David L. McCartney (Medical Director), David W. Lamberts (back up Medical Director), James J. Boop (back up Medical Director), Tim Khater and Jay C. Bradley. The GPLEB also provides services and transplant tissue to corneal transplant surgeons in the Amarillo area, located in the panhandle of Texas, as there is no accredited, functioning eye bank in that location. Transplant centers served in this region include Northwest Texas Hospital, Northwest Texas Surgical Center and Amarillo Cataract and Eye Surgery Center. Surgeons (MD‘s) in the Amarillo area, served by the GPLEB, include Paul W. Munden, Avery Rush and Hugh Currie. Unlike any other transplant procedure, carefully performed, corneal transplant surgery is over 95% successful. This is due, in part, to the fact that tissue and/or blood typing is not required for corneal transplant surgery. The cornea itself is avascular, meaning free of blood supply, thus eliminating the need for cross-matching and, therefore, decreases the risk of rejection.
People of all ages, young and old, can be eye donors. Eyes from healthy donors (age of full term newborn to 69) are utilized for transplant, and those older donors (70 and over) or donors with unhealthy eyes, are used for valuable research, teaching and education. Not only is research as important as transplant tissue, doctors and researchers rely upon donated eyes because there is NO other eye tissue, animal or otherwise, that closely resembles the human eye. There is NO man-made substitute for the precious Gift of Sight. Good or poor eyesight, wearing of glasses or not, previous eye surgeries, cancer, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration or infection DOES NOT rule out an individual for eye donation. As mentioned, if the eyes/corneas are not suitable for transplant they are suitable for research, teaching and education.
The “Gift of Sight” is made possible to the ever-growing number of people placed on the waiting list in West Texas, the South Plains and the Panhandle areas of Texas, which is under the direction of Lion David L. McCartney, M. D. (Medical Director) and Lion Ken W. Steward, CEBT (Executive Director). Dr. McCartney has served as the volunteer Medical Director of the GPLEB since 1987 and currently serves as Chairman and Professor of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at TTUHSC. Ken W. Steward, CEBT has been with the GPLEB since June of 1992. Ken is also a licensed funeral director and embalmer and has previously worked in the nursing field. More important, though, without the foresight and graciousness of donor families and those who have pledged their eyes to be donated, the process would never evolve.
The cornea is the transparent covering on the front of the eye that resembles the crystal of a watch, which works with the lens of the eye to focus light rays entering the eye. When the cornea is diseased or injured, transplanting a fresh, clear cornea from a healthy eye donor may restore sight. Even the sclera, or white part of the eye, can be surgically used in the eye reconstruction or eye prosthesis surgery. Established in 1974, the GPLEB is the oldest and most successful transplant organization in Lubbock, West Texas, the South Plains and Panhandle region of Texas. The first corneal transplant surgery in Lubbock, according to archived records available, was performed on November 4, 1974 at St. Mary‘s Hospital (currently Covenant Lakeside). Since the eye bank‘s inception in 1974, we have provided more than 1,500 corneas, and countless other eye tissues, to recipients for “sight-restoring” transplant surgeries.
The GPLEB relies heavily upon the nurses, doctors and other health care professionals in our local and regional medical facilities to assist us in offering the option of eye donation to families when a tragedy or loss occurs. A number of families welcome the option as a means to make something good come out of their loss of a loved one. There are numerous recipients who call, send letters and cards to the Eye Bank, expressing their gratitude that we have provided them with this “life-enhancing” gift. Likewise, the Eye Bank receives the same from donor families relating their feelings of happiness in the ability to help others at a time of loss in their own family setting. “People Helping People” this is the theme that donor and recipient families feel and receive satisfaction in knowing.
After a death occurs, the donated eyes must be removed within 6-8 hours after death to maintain the optimum viability and to insure the highest quality of corneal transplant tissue. As stated before, we accept donors from all age range, from full-term newborn to upwards of 100+. Our oldest donor on record is 104 years of age.
In early October 2002, the GPLEB moved from its home of over 28 years in the Department of Ophthalmology (Thompson Hall on the TTUHSC campus) to a newly renovated facility in the School of Medicine at TTUHSC. Funding for this project was made possible by donations from Lions and Lions Clubs in District 2-T2, with the major portion coming from TTUHSC and the School of Medicine itself. The new facility is approximately twice the size of the previous facility and includes an Ocular Microsurgical Lab for the training of resident physicians in Ophthalmology and for on-going research. A grant was written and obtained for helping to equip the ocular microsurgical lab through the Abell-Hanger Foundation of Midland, Texas.
Without the gracious support from people like you, through your willingness to become an eye donor, our program and mission would not be able to provide the services it has done so successfully since 1974. A big thanks goes out to the Lions Clubs and Lions members throughout our District 2-T2 for their donation and time, resources and funds to the conservation of sight through transplant, research, teaching and education. For more information about the Great Plains Lions Eye Bank, or how to become an eye donor, please feel free to call us at (806) 743-2242 . We maintain 24 hour availability to the public and medical center facilities in our region for donor information and referral and potential and/or consented eye donors. The GPLEB asks that everyone think about eye donation and DISCUSS YOUR DECISION WITH ALL OF YOUR FAMILY, so that they will know your wishes and will be informed and able to carry out those wishes at the appropriate time.
Gregory D. Oliver, BS, CTBS
Great Plains Lions Eye Bank, Inc.
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
3601 4th Street, Suite BAB104-HSC
Lubbock, Texas 79430
To receive a donor card, please email your Name and address to Gregory D. Oliver