Getting eyeballs, goal of many in the online businesses, has a completely different meaning for an incredible person in Mumbai – Kusum Vira. She collects eyeball donations from her community for Mumbai. 85% of all the eye donations in Mumbai come from the Gujarati and Jain community. 500 eyeballs a year. Not just the cornea donations, she is also passionate about Skin donation, which is needed in skin graft operations. 95% of all skin donations in Mumbai, again, come from the Gujarati community that she engages with.
Interestingly, she has been using the appeal of charity in the religious and cultural ethos to drive people towards body part donations after death.
Though Kusum simply puts it as a “religion-backed ideology that perceives donation as an ultimate form of charity”, many say the model is charting its own success story. Kusum’s son Vikas, secretary ofNGO Tarun Mitra Mandal, which collects the highest number of eyeballs in the city, says, “Donating eyes has become more like a custom now, with more families willingly doing it. This led to us also pushing for skin donations and, surprisingly, there have been hardly any refusals.”
Ghatkopar is the main pocket for such donations and Kutchi Gujaratis remain the highest donors in the community. This community’s contribution compared to the rest of the city is just unbelievable.
Dr Prakash Katakia, of Arpan Eye Bank, which caters exclusively to Ghatkopar, told TOI that they get about 500 eyeballs from an area that registers around 3,500 deaths a year. “This is a huge percentage, given that we manage to merely collect another 3,000 eyeballs from one lakh deaths,” he said.
Given the long queue of people who are still waiting for cornea transplants and lack the donors, it is important for more donors to join in the drive.