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University of Iowa News Release

July 28, 2005

Healing Garden To Honor Transplant Donors At UI Hospitals And Clinics

Lions Club members across Iowa are supporting the construction of the state's largest Donor Memorial and Healing Garden in honor of organ and tissue donors at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.

Workers are scheduled to begin the project Aug. 1. Organizers are planning to dedicate the garden at 2 p.m. Oct. 10. The effort is funded by private donations from Iowa Lions Club members and fundraising efforts of the Iowa Lions Foundation.

Iowa Lions Club members have a long history of supporting transplantation through their devotion to the Iowa Lions Eye Bank, located at 2346 Mormon Trek Blvd. in Iowa City. The Eye Bank will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year.

"We are deeply grateful to Iowa Lions for their support of the Eye Bank for the past five decades," said John Sutphin, M.D., UI professor (clinical) of ophthalmology and UI medical director of the Iowa Lions Eye Bank. "Their willingness to contribute to the Donor Memorial and Healing Garden effort is even more proof of their dedication and generosity."

The Iowa Lions, in association with the UI Department of Ophthalmology under Alson E. Braley, M.D., established the Iowa Lions Eye Bank in 1955. Now, approximately 400 Lions and Lioness Clubs in Iowa help support the Iowa Lions Eye Bank through volunteerism and fundraising. The nearly 13,000 Iowa Lions and Lioness club members play a vital role in the success of the Eye Bank.

Another vital volunteer link in the mission of the Eye Bank is the Iowa State Patrol. Troopers have transported donor eyes to the Eye Bank since its inception.

In 1999, eye bank technicians began traveling to hospitals within a 60-mile radius of Iowa City to recover corneal tissue from donated eyes. This process allows the cornea to be immediately preserved for transplantation, increasing the viability and quality of the tissue. In 2001, this recovery travel area was extended to all of eastern Iowa and, in 2003, to central Iowa, as well.

The Iowa Lions Eye Bank reported a record year in 2004, with 1,065 donor eyes received and 686 corneas provided for transplant. Of that total, 252 Iowans and 228 patients elsewhere in the United States received corneal transplants, while 206 were provided internationally for transplant. Since 1961, eye banks nationwide have made possible more than one million sight-restoring corneal transplants, and the Iowa Lions Eye Bank provided tissue for 11,505 such transplants in that period. 

The Iowa Lions Eye Bank also plays a central role in research. The bank provides donated eyes to the world-renowned UI Center for Macular Degeneration to study age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is the leading cause of blindness in developed nations.

Iowans are fortunate that they don't have to wait if they need a corneal transplant, but the need across the United Sates is great. The Iowa Lions Eye Bank is also among 32 U.S. eye banks participating in a five-year study of the potential viability of accepting older adults as eye donors.

The Iowa Lions Eye Bank is an accredited charter member of the Eye Bank Association of America and is inspected every three years to ensure quality control and adherence to strict medical standards. In addition, the Iowa Lions Eye Bank is one of only 14 U.S. eye banks belonging to Vision Share, a national leader in the eye banking community, dedicated to promoting the highest possible standards for donor tissue, quality and donor screening.

For more information about the Iowa Lions Eye Bank and how you can support the Donor Memorial and Healing Garden project, contact Cindy Reed at 319-356-2871.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at http://www.uihealthcare.com.

STORY SOURCE: Joint Office for Marketing and Communications, University of Iowa Health Care, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room E110 GH, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Moore, 319-356-3945, thomas-moore@uiowa.edu.