In 2008, 75 people were given the gift of renewed sight thanks to corneas donated at University Hospital. As the top donor hospital in the south Texas region last year, University Hospital was recognized by the San Antonio Eye Bank as its “Hospital of the Year.” The ceremony, held July 16 at University Hospital, included moving remarks from a woman whose husband was one of those 75 donors and a man who can see today because of his cornea transplant.
“We are committed to organ and tissue donation,” said University Health System president/CEO George B. Hernández, Jr. “I am honored to accept this award on behalf of our staff who has worked so diligently to improve our donation rates. However, I am even more honored to have this opportunity to pay tribute to Mrs. Tina Marie Mireles, who is here today representing the generous family members who make the decision to enable their loved one’s legacies to live on through donation.”
Last September, Mrs. Mireles’ husband Robert Mireles, was brought to University Hospital after a tragic motorcycle crash. After hearing the devastating news that he would not live, she was approached about cornea donation. “I called his brother and all he said to me was ‘Robert was a giving person,’ and then I knew,” recalled Mrs. Mireles, with tears in her eyes. “He was the type of person who would give the shirt off his back.”
San Antonio Eye Bank executive director Jim Wagner applauded her and all donor families. “These people are heroes. In their darkest hour, they’re able to think of somebody else,” he said. “It’s humanitarian giving of the highest order.”
Daniel Jess, 28, told the audience how cornea transplantation changed his life. “I’ve tried to challenge myself, my mind – challenge my body, and be a better person,” he said. “I try every day to really earn the gift that I have been given.” Following his transplant, Jess became an avid runner. He has lost 60 pounds and is currently training to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon.
Dr. Dan Johnson, assistant professor of Ophthalmology at the UT Health Science, routinely performs corneal transplantation at University Hospital. He explained how the cornea focuses light to the back of the eye, and makes vision possible. “People with diseases of the cornea have varying levels of vision problems, including legal blindness,” he explained. “Once medical options are exhausted, we often turn to surgery to replace a layer, or the full thickness, of the cornea.” He says cornea transplant surgery takes about an hour and uses sutures that are thinner than human hair. The success rate is better than 90 percent.