Boone Hospital wins award for excellence in eye donation

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The nonprofit organization "Saving Sight" presented the Excellence in Eye Donation award to Boone Hospital yesterday.

One of Saving Sight's functions is to facilitate cornea donations. Spokesperson Kharim Strayhorn said his company is working to satisfy a great need.

"The corneas are the most transplanted tissue in the world," Strayhorn said. "There's over 50,000 cornea transplants a year."

In order to qualify for the Excellence in Eye Donation award, a hospital must facilitate 10 cornea donations in a calendar year. In 2014, Boone Hospital facilitated 37 eye donations. Strayhorn said his company considers this to be a remarkable achievement.

"We service over 200 hospitals in a three-state area, and only 15% our hospitals have received this award."

Though Saving Sight now works outside of the state of Missouri, its roots are based in Columbia. A community outreach group known as the Missouri Lions partnered with MU in 1960 to form the "Lions Eye Tissue Bank." This became a place for university medical staff to research the biology of the human eye, and facilitate donations and transplants. In 2013, the organization officially changed the name to Saving Sight.

Though it began in Columbia, Saving Sight has helped people all across the world.

"In 2014 we offered out 3,142 corneas for sight in our communities in three states, and international as well," Strayhorn said. But even though the organization continues to grow, Strayhorn said there will always be need for more organ donors.

"You have eyes, and you can see," Strayhorn said. "Just imagine if you had some sort of disease that took away your sight. Sometimes the only way you can fix that is with a cornea donation. It's a first-person registry, so if a person signs up they are going to become a donor,"

Strayhorn said organ donors should explain their wishes to their loved ones as soon as possible. By having the conversation now, people can spare their loved ones a great deal of turmoil.

"That's the worst time in someone's life when their loved one passes away," said Strayhorn. "And then we have to ask them the question,or let them know that their loved one wanted to become a donor, and this can be very trying for some families. But if you talk about it before you pass away, everything will be good. It will make the whole transition smoother, and it will help a lot of people."