International Collaboration Success - A Transplant Story

December 7, 2014 -- Through a collaboration of good will, the Cornea Research Foundation of America, in partnership with the Indiana Lions Eye and Tissue Transplant Bank, Quito Barrio Outreach, an organization that builds up communities in Quito, Ecuador and several generous church groups in Michigan, a young stone mason has regained the gift of sight.

While on a church mission trip to construct a second story on an adult education center in Quito, Ecuador, brothers Jim and Jack Herrmann befriended an Ecuadorian stone mason named Luis Almeida. Working alongside Luis and other local workers, they would all enjoy a beer after they finished for the day. Although Jim and Jack did not speak Spanish, they immediately bonded with the Spanish-speaking man, his wife Veronica and his two young children.

While on a break one afternoon, Luis pointed to his eyes—trying to communicate that there 
was a problem. So they located, Lupe, who had helped translate before when they could not get past the language barrier. As Lupe translated, they learned that Luis was almost blind in one eye and could not see well out of the other. The brothers were concerned for Luis. They soon learned that a Lion’s group had identified that he had a problem with his cornea, the clear window on the front of the eye. Luis shared his worries that his wife and young son would soon become responsible for supporting the family after Luis, only 31 years old, could no longer work due to his debilitating vision loss.

 Luis-Almeida-Xplant-23.jpgWhile on the plane home, Jim and Jack could not stop thinking about Luis and his family.  What would happen to them if they did not try to help? Unlike the United States, Ecuador does not have the supply of donated corneas to conduct transplants in a reasonable time frame. The more the brothers thought about it, the more they were inspired to help Luis regain his sight. As they had witnessed, he was a good man; a hard worker whose quality of life was bound to be dramatically altered once he lost his sight completely.

Once they arrived back home in Michigan, they went to Google and typed in “Quito + Cornea” and the Cornea Research Foundation of America (CRFA) was one of the results. Once they visited and realized that CRFA was located in an adjacent state, they called Marianne Price, PhD, the executive director and the collaboration to help Luis began.

Luis-Almeida-Xplant-08.jpgThe Indiana Lions Eye and Tissue Transplant Bank agreed to provide the corneas, eye surgeon Dr. Francis W. Price, Jr. of Price Vision Group and the Central Indiana Surgery Center agreed to waive their fees this once. Jim and Jack were so happy that their plans to help Luis were coming to fruition. Now, all that was left was raising donations to cover the cost of travel and lodging in Indianapolis during the surgery and obtaining a visa to travel from Ecuador.

Thanks to generous individuals in their community who contributed to pay the travel expenses and Father Don and Father Patty from Quito Barrio Outreach who helped Luis through the visa process, Luis made it to Indianapolis to receive his cornea transplant surgery and treatment. “We were happy to coordinate this effort to help Luis regain his sight. It is especially heart warming to see all of the individuals and organizations who stepped up to help Luis,” says Marianne Price of CRFA.

Pictured Success: Luis Almieda with Jim and Jack Hermann, Tim Fischer of the Indiana Lions Eye Bank and Marianne Price of the Cornea Research Foundation 


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