Author Prof. Dr. V.Velayudham, M.s., D.O., Director & Superintendent Regional Institute of Ophthalmology & Gopvernment Ophthalmic Hospital, Chennai-600 008.

The Joy of Sharing

    When we have an excess of anything be it wealth, talent, knowledge, ability or experience we have an obligation to share that excess with others In ways that make a difference. From time memories philanthropists experience great joy and satisfaction in donating money for noble causes eg. (Annadhannam), Education (Kalvi Dhanam), Clothing and for Medical Treatment of the needy. The noblest of all donations undoubtedly is the gift of sight. Unlike other organ donation, which are from live donors, eyes are removed only after the death of the individual. Why burn or bury the eyes of your loved one when they can be used to restore sight to two visually handicapped people. Your loved one will continue to live through the eyes of the recipient.
    The concept of eye donation is age old. Kannappa Nahyanar is believed to have lived about 2000 years ago in a place called Potthappi Nadu in the Northern part of Tamil Nadu. He belonged to the Hunter community. His parents were King Nagan and his wife Thatthai. Kannappar’s original name was ‘Thinnanar’. While hunting Thinnanar found a Lingam (one of Lord Siva’s forms) in the Kalathi Hill. He had a great affection and Love for the Lord and hence used to offer all that he hunted and he used to stay near the Lingam day and night. Lord Siva wanted to show the love of his devotee to the world. So he induced severe bleeding from the Right eye of the Lingam. Thinnanar was very much upset and tried all measures to stop the bleeding. Finally he gouged (enucleated) one of his eyes with his arrow and transplanted the same in to the Right eye of the Lingam. To his surprise the bleeding from the Right eye stopped. Thinnanar was very happy. But there was bleeding from the left eye. Without hesitation Thinnanar kept his leg over the left eye of the Lingam so as to identify the position of the eye and then tried to remove (enucleate) his left eye. Suddenly Lord Siva appeared before him calling him as “Kannappar” and stopped him from removing his other eye and blessed him restoring both eyes.

Corneal Grafting

    In the field of organ transplantation, cornea is the 1st organ to be transplanted. Although there are reports about corneal transplants done in the 18th country, the 1st successful corneal transplant was done on 7th December 1905 by Dr. Eduard Zinn in what is now the Czeach Republic. In India, the 1st successful corneal transplantation was done in 1948 by Dr. R.E.S. Muthayya, the then Superintendent of Government Ophthalmic Hospital, Chennai-8. He is credited with establishing the 1st EYE BANK in India 1948. The general public are of the opinion that the whole eye is replace, which is not true. Only the corneal which is the circular outer coat in front of the eye (identical to contact lens) is transplanted. So, patients with corneal opacities that cause defective vision or blindness are the people who benefit from cornea transplantation.

Eye Bank

    Though the first Eye Bank in Government Ophthalmic Hospital was established in 1948, eye donation was not prevalent in Chennai and Tamil Nadu before 1981. In 1981 Lions International President Lion, Murugami gave a call to Lions all over the world to give the gift of sight to Corneally Blind persons through eye donations. Lions N.R.Dave the Dist. Chairman of erstwhile Dist324-A took up the challenge of propagating and procuring eye donations from the Lions Community and general public Prof. Dr. E.T.Selvam the then Superintendent of Govt. Ophthalmic Hospital helped N.R.Dave by providing a place in GOH to establish Lions Eye Bank. To start with 500 sq.ft. was allocated in the first floor of the New Building. The then Hon’ble Health Minister Gove. of Tamil Nadu Dr. H.V.Hande inaugurated the Lions Eye Bank on 19th September 1981.
    The Lions undertook the Herculean task of propagating the message of eye donation to fellow Lions, their family members, relatives and the public. In the first year 14 pairs of eyes were procured and 28 visually handicapped people were given the gift of sight by the corneal surgeons of Govt. Ophthalmic Hospital. The Eye donation calls were received 24 hrs a day. The Govt. Ophthalmic Hospital duty staff (doctor and paramedical) were picked up from the hospital by car and after procuring the eyes from the deceased, they were dropped at the hospital. Lion N.R.Dave the founder secretary of the Lion Eye Bank used to tome per4sonally in his car and assist the team which needs a special mention on this occasion.
    Lions Eye Bank propagates the eye donation message constantly through Radio, Newspapers, TV, pamphlets, lectures, seminars and so on. Succeeding District Governors who were made chairman of the trust during their Governorship, Directors and Superintendents and Cornea Chief of Ophthalmic Hospital and members of Lions fraternity supported the activities of Eye Bank.

The Government of Tamil Nadu supported the project and passed a G.O. to charge only a nominal rent of Rs.10/- per month for the eye bank in the year 1987-1988.

Important mile stones of Lions Eye Bank Trust & RIO-GOH Research Foundation

1981 Started the Eye Bank with Government approval
1987-1988 Lions Club International permitted to use Lions name.
1988-1989 Procurement of eyes crossed 100 pairs a year
1990 Received the first LCIF grant for equipping the eye bank with state of are equipment the Laminar flowhood specular microscope, ambulance van etc. With the above, Lions Eye Bank became Lions MODEL EYE BANK at Chennai. International president Lion BILLBIGGS declared open the equipment. ` In a public function at GOH the Then Chief Minister Kalaignar M.Karunanidhi and the then Health Minister dedicated the Lions Model Eye Bank to the state of Tamil Nadu.
1991-1992 Eye Bank founder secretary Lion N.R.Dave became District Governor and prof.Dr.K. Anandakannan received Melvin Johns Fellow Award.
1995 Govt. of India sanctioned Rs.50,000 every year for day to day recurring expenditures (full time van driver, Clerk cum Accountant)
1998 Lion N.R. Dave approached Tamil Nadu Govt. for a place to construct Lions Corneal Block.
1999 After scrutinizing the records of the Eye Bank, Hon’ble Health Minister Sri. Arcot Veeraswamy passed a G.O. sanctioning space for construction of the Eye Bank. The Then Director Dr. V, Balasubramaniam was instrumental in getting the official PWD procedures for permission. District Governor Lion L.K.Syed Ahmed under his governorship constructed the two floors of “Lions Corneal Block” In the year 1999-2000.
2000 In the presence of Egmore MLA & Deputy Speaker Sr.Parithi Illamvazhuthy and past Internation Director Lion G.Ramasamy and many Lion philanthropists, the Lions Cornea Block was dedicated to the public.
2001 ORBIS International visited the Lions Eye Bank and appreciated the cornea services provided to the patients.
2003-2004 To increase the needs of the growing Eye Bank, 2nd floor was constructed by Mr.N.Radhakrishnan MD of Ms.Tarapur & Co subsidizing the labour cost. He was honored with MJF Award. HCRP (Hospital Corneal Retrieval Program) was inaugurated by Dr.P.Vijayalakshmi Director of Medical Education. This program along with dedicated work of EDCs and admimistrators of Kilpauk Medical College Hospital, Government Royapettah Hospital, Stanley Medical College Hospital and Government General Hospital, Chennai makes the procurement of eyes more meaningful.
2004 Dist 324-A was trifurcated in April 2004. General Body of Lions Eye Bank Trust decided to co-ordinate with all the three districts and was renamed as Chennai Lions Eye Bank Trust and Research Foundation.2nd LCIF grant was received in 2004 to procure new specular
2005-2006 microscope, new ambulance van, computer etc., Toll free No: 1919 was allotted for Eye donation calls. Name and Style was changed to Chennai Lions Eye Bank Trust and RIO-GOH Research Foundation

Important mile stones of Lions Eye Bank Trust & RIO-GOH Research Foundation

Is a totally charitable organization. All Patients are treated totally free of cost.
This is the only one of its kind in our country which is a model of NGO working with Government continuously for 25 years, and also will work in the years to come.
We expect the achievement of procuring around 750 pairs of eyes per year which will be doubled in the forth coming years.

What Is Eye Donation & How to Do it ?

Those who wish to donate their eyes can sign the will form (pledge) and get and ID from Chennai Eye Bank Trust & RIO-GOH Research Foundation.
The best way is, if your close relative or friend is dead, kindly call 1919 or 28555281 so as to enable the Eye Bank team to reach the place and procure the eyes within six hours of death. A team is available round the clock to attend to this eye donation call.
There is absolutely no disfigurement after the removal of the eyes from the body.
Instead of Burying or Burning donate the eyes so that, two Corneally blind people can see the world.
The Lions and other dignitaries who have visited our Eye Bank are as follows.

  • Hon’ble Chief Minister of Tamilnadu Thiru.Dr.Kalianger M.Karunanidhi
  • Hon’ble Minister H.V.Hande
  • Lion Balu District Governor 324-A Distrioct
  • Dr. E.T.Selvam, Superintendent of Ophthalmic Hospital
  • Lion Willam L Bill Biggs-International President 1990-1991
  • Lion Late.Vispy Minoo Engineer, International Secretary
  • Mr.Mafatial M.Mehtha, Bombay
  • Lion Rohit C.Mehta-International President 1991-92
  • Ashok Mehtha-International President 2005-06
  • Lion Mahendra Amarasuriya-International Vice President
  • Dr. Chandrasekar Shetty, Technical Director
  • Lions James T.Coffey-International President 1992-93
  • Mr Parithy Illamvazhuthy-Deputy Speaker
  • Mr.S.Munir Hoda-Secreatary of Health & Family Welfare
  • Lion Kay K.Fukushima –International IV President
  • Lion. Praveen Chhajed-International Director
  • Mr.Semmalai-Hon’ble Minister for Health
  • Mr.Thalavai Sundaram-Hon’ble Minister for Health
  • Lion Jimmy M.Ross-Ingternational President
  • Mr.M.K.Stalin-MLA.