Lihle Jacobs
3 minute read
17 Jun 2009

Corneal transplant restores the gift of sight to PMB woman

Lihle Jacobs

PIETERMARITZBURG woman Shamane Singh is a successful businesswoman and she attributes her success to the donors who made her corneal transplants possible....

PIETERMARITZBURG woman Shamane Singh is a successful businesswoman and she attributes her success to the donors who made her corneal transplants possible.

Singh (38), who runs two very successful day care centres in Scottsville, said: “Two anonymous special people gave me the gift of life. If I had not had those transplants, I would not be where I am today. It gave me the confidence to face any challenge.”

Singh said she realised in her later years at high school that she had problems with her sight. She said she had difficulty reading from the chalkboard and experienced headaches, nausea, and wore prescription glasses when necessary.

At 20 she started wearing hard contact lenses as even the strongest spectacles failed to help with her vision.

“I wore contact lenses for 13 years which helped tremendously, but also resulted in the scarring of my cornea. I was virtually blind if I removed the contact lens.”

She visited an optician who told her that she had Keratoconus and referred her to an ophthalmologist. The ophthalmologist put her on a waiting list for a cornea transplant. “Some people have been waiting for years; it depends how soon a compatible donor can be found.”

Singh said that when she was told a donor had been found six months later, she was both anxious and happy.

First she had a corneal graft on the left eye in 2003.

“I experienced only slight discomfort after the surgery and had to wear an eyepatch for a week, but I was so happy because the vision in my left eye had improved greatly.”

Singh said she visited the ophthalmo­logist monthly for a year to remove the stitches.

She waited until her left eye was healed before having surgery on her right eye. In 2006, she underwent the transplant on her right eye.

Singh said she believes God sent her the two compatible donors. “I now believe in miracles. Getting my eyesight back has changed my life significantly. I can now enjoy all the little things like reading a book, watching TV or driving.”

She said this has inspired her and her loved ones to also become organ donors. It has also made her a more compassionate person, she said.

“Every day I look at the world through somebody else’s eyes.”

Carol Guzovic, KZN Cornea and Eye association manager, said that often the demand for sight-restoring tissue outweighs the supply.

“We appeal to communities to consider organ donations and notify their families of their wishes, because consent of the next of kin is needed for the transplant.”

For more information, contact the Organ Donor Foundation toll-free at 0800 226 611 or the KZN Cornea and Eye Association at 082 781 2828.

KERATOCONUS is a non-inflammatory condition in which the normally roundshaped cornea thins and becomes distorted and irregular. A cone-like bulge develops, resulting in significant visual distortion. Spectacles or soft contact lenses are prescribed, but as the disorder progresses, the cornea continues to thin and change shape. Rigid gas-permeable contact lenses can be prescribed to correct vision more adequately. In severe cases of scarring, extreme thinning or contact lens intolerance, a corneal transplant may be necessary.