Two days ago, Riyaaz Carollisen’s eyesight was at only 10 per cent and now a cornea donation may restore his eyesight within a couple of days.
Hanover Park, South Africa – Independent Online reported that the 15-year-old from Hanover Park and Grade 9 Batavia School of Skills pupil underwent cornea surgery on his right eye at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont on Tuesday night.
The teen lost vision in his eye due to sever scarring and irregularity of his cornea and no glasses or contact lenses can re-establish vision in the said eye, according to Carollisen’s doctor, Michael Attenborough. The transplant, which can cost up to R75 000 in the private healthcare sector as most corneas are imported from overseas, amounted to R45 000 as the donor was local.
This is almost unheard of as South Africa’s has a tiny pool of Organ Donors.
But everyone is a universal donor for corneal tissue. Blood type does not have to match. Age, eye colour and eyesight do not matter. Aside from those suffering from infections or a few highly infectious diseases, most people are suitable cornea donors.
Riyaaz’s mother, Shaqeelah Carollisen, 43, who is a private carer in Cape Town, had fundraised about R10 000 with the help of a jazz artist Johnathan Rubain.
When she found out on Monday that her son had received a donor and that the operation would be the next day, she had no choice but to seek help from her employer who had already paid for a prior surgery to the boy’s eye. She received an additional R35 000 as a loan from her employer.
Carollisen found out about the cornea donation at work.
“I froze for some time because I was very nervous and happy at the same time, now my son will finally get to see the sun rise and set.”
Dr Mike Attenborough, an ophthalmologist and cornea specialist who had already operated on Riyaaz, said about 85 per cent of corneas were sourced from the US.
“There is a struggle to get human tissue in South Africa, let alone a cornea because of various issues,” Attenborough said.
He added that cornea transplants had about 95 per cent success rates and that Riyaaz would be able to see within a couple of days.
“He will have better vision within a few days. There are 16 stitches that hold the transplant in place and that will heal after a year, when the stitches have fallen out. Long term problems of such a transplant may include rejection of the eye, hence one has to have regular check-ups, about six to seven times a year.”
Carollisen said she was still in need of funding to pay her employer. She said she would also need to pay for her son’s expensive contact lenses.