We were fortunate enough to be invited to go behind the scenes into Sierra Donor Services in Sacramento, California as apart of our Patient Ambassador Program with Astellas. We were joined by our Patient Ambassador Valen who has received a kidney transplant 15 years ago and her mother who received a cornea transplant 22 years ago.
We were given a tour of their facility. They brought us into the lab -after suiting up from head to toe in protective gear in order to maintain a sterile environment- to see how their team tactfully and methodically procure the cornea for transplant. Needless to say, this was an experience of a lifetime especially for Valen’s mother to see how her cornea would have been prepared prior to her transplant.
Corneas are one of the human tissues that can be used for transplant to give the gift of sight again to a person in need. The corneas are carefully prepared by a team at Sierra Donor Services to then be transplanted to the recipient by a surgeon. From the time Sierra Donor Services receives the cornea, they have a maximum of 14 days to run tests on it to qualify it as suitable for transplant, to prep it for transplant and to get it to the appropriate hospital for the recipient to undergo the transplant.
We were able to see this process from the beginning to the end by Sierra Donor Services Cornea team. We were blown away by the expertise displayed by the team and their dedication to giving sight to people in need. Giving the gift of sight to someone is an extremely special gift. According to the National Eye Institute, there are about 40,000 corneal transplants done per year in the United States. It is incredible the network of doctors, technicians, and coordinators that are able to give sight to so many people. They would not be able to do it without the teams across the nation such as Sierra Donor Services.
It is amazing to get a sneak peek into the process of preparing a cornea for transplant. The team at Sierra Donor Services displayed the utmost respect when handling and preparing the precious cornea. We greatly appreciate their team giving us a tour and taking time to demonstrate their skill and expertise in the world of cornea transplants. It truly was an overwhelming experience of inspiration.