When Worlds Collide #108: Eye Donation at 50 – Promoting Lanka’s Soft Power

When Worlds Collide, by Nalaka Gunawardene

Text of my ‘When Worlds Collide’ column published in Ceylon Today newspaper on 23 May 2014

Human Eye Corneas, ready for dispatch at International Eye Bank in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 27 March 2013 - Photo by Janaka Sri Jayalath Human Eye Corneas, ready for dispatch at International Eye Bank in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 27 March 2013 – Photo by Janaka Sri Jayalath

A piece of air cargo, compact and unusual, left our island on 25 May 1964, a Vesak Poya day. It contained a thermos flask, inside which were six sterilised bottles packed in ice. Each one contained a human eye, donated by Lankans who had died in the preceding 24 hours.

Having been hand carried from Colombo to Singapore, they were rushed to Singapore general hospital on arrival. There, eye surgeons grafted the corneas on five people suffering from reversible corneal blindness.

So started a ‘mercy mission’ that has been sustained for half a century, during which time over 66,500 eye corneas have been donated from Sri Lanka to a total…

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