(Cushing, Okla.)  Jeanette King, director of the Lions Eye Bank in Oklahoma City and her fellow Oklahoma City Downtown Lions Club member, Lehman Freeman shared the vision for a new Lions Eye Bank facility with Cushing Lions Club on Tuesday.

The Lions Eye Bank opened an office in November, 1957 at University Hospital, with one employee, a medical director and ophthalmology residents to recover corneas.  The establishment of the eye bank came after Lions of Oklahoma voted unanimously at the State Convention to establish the Oklahoma Lions Eye Bank. 

“But because there was no anatomical gift act at the time, Lions requested legislators to create a bill that would allow eye and organ donation after death,” King explained. 

The first cornea transplants were for a young man and a young woman, with corneas donated by a patient at University Hospital who was a Korean War Veteran.

Since then, over 24,000 Oklahoma donated corneas have resulted in 18,000 cornea transplant surgeries.

King and Freeman, who is currently serving on the Lions Building Committee, went on to explain the need for a new building, its cost and future plans.

“The Eye Bank serves a critical need,” Freeman said.  However, the building sits in a ‘valley’ – where flooding has become an ongoing issue.  “That’s not good for a medical facility.”

Not only is the flooding an issue, the need for more space has become an issue as well.  The Eye Bank, at present, has two technicians on staff.  The technicians are responsible for harvesting corneas and bringing them back to the facility. 

“Right now, the technician on duty has harvested 9 corneas and received a call about 6 more today,” Freeman said. 

Only one technician is on duty at a time – for seven days at a time.

“There’s no place for them to rest,” he went on.  “A new facility would not only provide an area where they can rest, but will also allow space enough to hire more technicians.”

Fundraising for the project began in August.  The goal date to start new construction is March 15, 2012.  Total estimated cost is $800,000.

“We want to encourage all Lions and Clubs to chip in,” King said.  “Lions Club is about restoring sight.”

In 1961 the Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA) was established and the Oklahoma Lions Eye Bank became a charter member.  The EBAA is a non-profit organization dedicated to the restoration of sight through promotion and advancement of eye banking.  The organization provides medical standards, policies and procedures, education and certification for Eeye Banks, technicians, medical directors and the executive director.  The Lions Eye Bank is inspected and re-certified every three years depending on inspection results.

The mission of the Oklahoma Lions Eye Bank is to recover and provide corneas for cornea transplants for Oklahomans on the cornea surgery waiting list.

For more information on the Lions Eye Bank visit: oklionsfoundation.org/eyebank.html