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Let’s Talk Organ and Tissue Donation podcast: Restoring vision thanks to corneal donation

Article Date: 

Monday, August 2, 2021

Thousands of people throughout Australia have had their sight restored thanks to corneal donation and the incredible work of the Lions Eye Donation Service – one of Australia’s largest providers of donated eye tissue for transplant and medical research. 

Based at Melbourne’s Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, the Lions Eye Donation Service is an eye bank that establishes consent for donation, coordinates and performs donation surgery, and evaluates and distributes donated corneas and other eye tissue. A collaboration between the Centre for Eye Research Australia, the Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, Lions Clubs of Victoria and Southern NSW, and the University of Melbourne, the service this year celebrates its 30-year anniversary. 

In the latest episode of our Let’s Talk Organ and Tissue Donation podcast, host Michael Billings talks to Lions Eye Donation Service Director, Dr Graeme Pollock OAM. 
Since helping establish the service 30 years ago, Dr Pollock has been at the helm for thousands of corneal donations and transplants. 

“One eye donation can literally give two people back their sight. I think we all know what the impact in our lives of having good sight is. The impact of this type of donation is actually massive,” Dr Pollock says. 

With hundreds of stories in his memory bank, one of the most fascinating was performing re-transplantation surgery on a patient whose corneas were estimated to be at least 120 years old, having had her transplant in 1953 from a donor who was then aged in his 70s.     

For someone with a damaged cornea, a corneal transplant is often their last hope of restoring vision. Like organ donation, this sight-saving operation is only possible thanks to the decision of a donor and their family.  

Dr Pollock says the impact of donation on recipient’s lives is remarkable, as is the success rate of transplantation. He said in 2020 there were approximately 2,300 corneal transplants Australia-wide; 530 of those took place in Melbourne. There were almost 1,500 corneal donors in Australia last year. 

Stories of strength and resilience amid adversity are being showcased in the new podcast series produced by radio announcer Michael Billings and our DonateLife Victoria team.

The podcast is now available on Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts

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Join us online Saturday, 5 June 3pm for the DonateLife National Service of Remembrance