On Dec. 7, 1905, Dr. Eduard Zirm performed the world’s first corneal transplant in the what is now the Czech Republic. On the 100th anniversary of that historic procedure, the World Health Organization estimates that corneal transplants could restore the vision of 11 million people worldwide.
Since Helen Keller’s call for Lions clubs members to become “Knights of the Blind” in 1925, Lions have dedicated themselves to aiding the blind and visually impaired. The service organization’s support of eye bank services is one way it is answering this call.
The first Lions eye bank was established in 1944 in New York City, and today there are approximately 60 Lions eye banks in 13 countries. The Lions eye banks are not-for-profit organizations that must be sponsored by a Lions club or district and establish a working relationship with a medical facility.
Lions eye banks often provide healthy corneas to countries in Central and South America, Africa and Asia that do not have eye banks.
There are no professional fees or processing costs to the donor or the donor’s family. Instead, the eye bank assumes all costs involved in procuring corneas.
Lions assist local eye banks as corneal tissue transporters and eye bank volunteers. Lions also encourage the public to become corneal tissue donors. Club members help to financially support the eye banks, holding fundraisers and purchasing necessary medical equipment.