Sioux Falls eye bank helping patients see a brighter future

They say they're one of six eye banks in the country helping patients "see" a brighter future.

Black Hills FOX Reporter Katrina takes a look at how this Sioux Falls non-profit is changing the world of cornea transplant surgeries.

The cornea is a thin clear dome on the front of the eye.

Doctors call it the eye's windshield.

Fuchs' Dystrophy is a degenerative disease that causes cells in the corneal layer to die off.

Patients could possibly get a transplant surgery, and to help speed the process along, Dakota Lions Sight & Health is providing "pre-loaded" cornea grafts.

Dakota Lions Sight & Health Clinical and Distribution Manager Marie Bowden says, "We actually peel those cells off of the cornea and then in order to make it a pre-loaded graft, we actually load it into something called the Straiko Jones Tube, and that is the insertion tube that the surgeons use for the transplant."

Katrina Lim says, "A cornea is about 500 microns thick, which is about the same thickness as a dime. Now the cornea graft that they're making is 7 microns thick, which is even thinner than tissue paper."

Marie Bowden is a distribution manager from the Sioux Falls Headquarters of DLSH.

She says the pre-loaded grafts help save time for the surgeons and the patients.

Marie Bowden says, "It's a lot more handy for the surgeons. They actually don't have to repeal the graft and load it into the insertion tube. So number one, it takes a lot of time and probably a little bit of anxiety. They know that this graft is actually a gift that's been given and they don't want anything to happen to it beforehand so they have us now pre-load it. It saves them time. It saves the patient a little extra time as well so they're not having to wait for the surgeons themselves to pre-load the grafts."

Bowden says this is a fairly new procedure... being performed for the last year and a half.

Marie Bowden says, "Before we pre-loaded it, we actually did do the process of DMEKing the tissue. We did the peel of the endothelial cells, laid it back down onto the cornea and then we would transport it in a CVC to the surgeons office in which he would actually have to set up a whole other O.R. just to punch a reseal his graft and then put it into the insertion tube."

DLSH accepts more than just eyes.

They also welcome donations of bones, veins, hearts, and other organs.

Part of their mission is to place all the recovered tissue back to the original community it was donated from.

To learn more, you can visit dakotasight.org.