First published October 31, 2023 by HCP Cure Blindness.
HCP Cureblindness announced that more than 200,000 patients have received a sight-saving corneal transplant since SightLife International-led efforts to address corneal blindness started in 2009. For HCP and partner doctors, it’s a milestone accomplished one surgery at a time.
In low- and middle-income countries, a corneal scratch left untreated can progress to corneal blindness. Infectious diseases such as bacterial keratitis and trachoma also can permanently damage the eye and cause one to lose his or her sight. Of those who are blind, 5% suffer from corneal blindness, where only a corneal transplant will reverse the condition.
71-year-old Ghanaian trader Efru Dankwa’s eye complications began about six years ago. Multiple efforts to treat her condition with medication were unsuccessful, leaving Efua without hope. She was told that in order to regain her sight, she would need to travel overseas to find more specialized medical treatment — which would be very expensive.
Fortunately, she was referred to Dr. Gladys Fordjour at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, who renewed Efua’s hope. After a successful corneal transplant, Efua is pleased to see her sight improving already. She shared, “My success story will reassure those seeking treatment who cannot afford to travel outside Ghana.”
Efru is one of the more than 200,000 patients who have received a sight-saving corneal transplant since SightLife International-led efforts to address corneal blindness started in 2009. In March 2023, HCP Cureblindness acquired SightLife International to make a greater global impact in eye care and address not only blindness from cataracts but also corneal blindness.
“This milestone is incredible,” says HCP Cureblindness CEO K-T Overbey. “Prior to 2009, no systems or resources existed for corneal transplants in many low- and middle-income countries. Those living with corneal blindness had few if any options. Most never regained their sight and lived with limited capacities and increased challenges caused by their blindness.”
For HCP and partner doctors, it’s a milestone accomplished one surgery at a time. Each successful surgery is the result of years of combined efforts to increase local capacity and build infrastructure. Efforts are not limited to Ghana but reach across the region.
HCP Cureblindness assists eye bank development with drafted legislation to collect cornea tissue, public awareness campaigns to increase posthumous donations, patient screening, tissue matching, strategic planning, and HR services. HCP streamlines the process to allow for the collection of quality tissue to be used within a short time frame and matched with a surgeon’s requests.
HCP has trained over 700 eye bankers to correctly handle and manage cornea tissue and established several centers of excellence for training surgeons and other eye bankers to utilize viable donations.
The eye banking system and structure continues to expand in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa as current partners are taking a leadership role in helping to facilitate and expand services to more locations. This is possible because of the systems built from the ground up to allow for scalable growth.
“HCP works with developing eye banks who have shown a commitment to growth, quality and sustainability. The goal is to provide assistance and expertise that allow them to run independently within five years,” explains Overbey. “Our eye bank partners have mature systems with utilization rates comparable with the Western world.”
In addition, many mature partners are now training other developing eye banks, creating a ripple effect to expand care further.
Together, HCP and SightLife International’s respective expertise will have a substantial and long-term impact on the world’s most underserved communities. Building on a shared commitment to training, while also combining HCP Cureblindness’ deep expertise in specialized care delivery and infrastructure development with SightLife International’s expertise in primary care and policy and advocacy, millions more will have access to critical eye care across Asia and Africa.
For Efru, this expertise means she’ll now live a fuller life with restored vision. This milestone reflects how it’s each person’s story (multiplied by 200,000) that fuels HCP Cureblindness’ mission to eradicate treatable blindness.