Ophthalmology faculty starts free cornea transplant at DHQ Hospital
Dr Hashim Imran and his team at the Department of Ophthalmology, Sargodha Medical College, have started free cornea transplantations at the District Headquarter Hospital. A donation of five corneas was received by air from the United States, and the patients underwent keroplasty, or transplantation procedure, successfully without bearing any financial cost.
Treating patients with corneal opacities, which is a preventable cause of visual disability, is always a challenge for an ophthalmologist, as the only treatment available is to replace opaque cornea with clear donor cornea. Unlike other organs transplantation like kidney or liver, which a healthy person can donate, cornea can only be taken from a dead body and, that too, within the first six hours of death, when it is viable.
In Pakistan, to get a cornea from a dead body is quite difficult due to social and religious taboos. Hence, we generally depend on corneal donations from other countries. Previously, Sri Lanka was a major source of corneal donation in the world. Of late, the US has also become a key source of corneal donations.
Given the sizeable number of patients with visual disability due to corneal opacification in Sargodha, Dr Imran, the Department Chair, and his team spent the last year reaching out to colleagues and friends so that like in major cities of the country, local patients can also benefit from this opportunity. This effort bore fruit, when Ophthalmologists associated with Pakistan Association of Memphils and Association of Physicians of Pakistani descent of North America helped them to enlist in the respective Centre to receive corneal donations through these organizations. The next task was to get the Department of Ophthalmology at SMC to be accredited with the Punjab Human Organ Transplant Authority, which was done with the help of DHQ Teaching Hospital Administration.
The first consignment of five corneas reached on September 27, 2019 and were transplanted free of cost on the same day. This unique addition to SU’s rich community service tradition will continue with more such donations from foreign lands for the needy patients in Sargodha Division. Simultaneously, efforts will be made create the much needed social consciousness for local cornea donations.