Iligan City

Iligan mayor commits to donating eyes as he helps in campaign for donors

Merlyn Manos

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Iligan mayor commits to donating eyes as he helps in campaign for donors

Iligan City Mayor Frederick Siao

Iligan City Information Office

The number of cornea donors is down, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic

ILIGAN, Philippines – Iligan Mayor Frederick Siao has committed to donating his eyes to Mindanao’s center for cornea retrieval at the state-run Amai Pakpak Medical Center (APMC) in Marawi City to drum up a campaign for more donation pledges.

Siao is the first to commit his eyes to the Eye Bank Foundation of the Philippines’ center in Marawi since it was established last year.

In August 2022, the state-run hospital partnered with the Eye Bank Foundation to establish and institutionalize the first cornea retrieval center in Mindanao. The agreement made the Marawi-based hospital and its ophthalmology department the Southern Philippines’ cornea retrieval hub. 

Siao said he decided to commit to donating his eyes after death even as he urged others to follow suit to help those who have lost their eyesight. 

The mayor’s donation was in response to an April 12 memorandum of agreement signed by him on behalf of the city government, the APMC, and the Eye Bank Foundation, which aims to promote cornea or eye donations to help the blind.

Siao said, “I would like to encourage like-minded individuals to support this initiative because we don’t know who we will be helping.”

The foundation’s president, Dr. Maria Dominga Padilla, lauded the Iligan City government and Siao for helping them with their campaign.

Padilla said the number of patients needing eye transplants has been increasing, but the number of cornea donors was very minimal, particularly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Before the pandemic, we were increasing that number. But when the pandemic struck, we lost donors. That’s why the number of recipients waiting for eye tissue is increasing, and it feels like we’re back in 1995 when we started,” she said.

Padilla lamented that since the foundation and APMC established the cornea retrieval center on August 17, 2022, they have received no pledge until Siao committed to donating his eyes.

She appealed to the public, “Please be a hero in someone’s eyes, and be a cornea or eye donor.”

Encouraged by Siao’s example and Padilla’s appeal, three Iligan-based reporters and several others committed to donating their eyes to the foundation during the signing of the agreement on Wednesday.

Padilla said corneal disease and blindness are prevalent, affecting many people regardless of their age, gender, or economic status. 

Eye trauma, such as chemical burns or surgery complications, or even eye infections due to contact lenses, were common causes of eyesight problems, she said.

When it opened in August, at least 40 patients were on the center’s waiting list for cornea donations. 

Eye doctors said one challenge was the apprehension of some religious groups in the predominantly Muslim Marawi City about eye tissue retrieval. Physicians, however, cited a fatwa that permits the procedure as the cornea is considered a tissue and not an organ.

They said eye surgeons only need to excise a few millimeters of small tissue to perform transplantation on a donee, and eye tissue can be harvested within 12 hours after death. Preservation takes only two weeks.

Padilla, in an earlier interview, said the foundation decided to collaborate with APMC because the hospital showed its capability and dedication to run an eye retrieval center. –

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