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KARACHI: Doctors at the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) on Saturday transplanted corneas of the country’s greatest charity icon, Abdul Sattar Edhi, into two blind people who were waiting for an eye donation, said SIUT officials and the Edhi family.

In his will, the widely respected social worker had wished that his organs be donated to the needy after his death. “While other organs could not be given away due to his poor health, his eyes have been donated,” said Faisal, the late Edhi’s son, while speaking to Dawn.

“The very philosophy behind Mr Edhi’s will was to inspire others to donate their organs after death and boost the culture of organ donation in a country where this trend is yet to be set,” explained Faisal Edhi.

The SIUT officials said doctors operated upon Mr Edhi’s body late Friday evening after his death and secured corneas, which, they added, were transplanted into two young patients on Saturday. “The doctors transplanted Edhi’s corneas into two patients who had been waiting to see the world for the first time,” said an SIUT official. The surgery was performed by a team of surgeons of the SIUT ophthalmology department.

No details were released about the age and gender of the two people who received the donation. However, the officials said they would be able to see for the first time in their life some 10 days after the surgery.

“Edhi sahib was among the first of the 2,000 donors who got themselves registered with the SIUT pledging organ donation after their death.

“The Edhi family donated both his eyes after he died at the SIUT and fulfilled his will,” said a spokesman for the hospital.

He said Mr Edhi died after receiving treatment for the past 10 years at the SIUT. Since 2013, he had been on dialysis thrice a week, he added.

“We all hope Edhi sahib’s donation will encourage others to save the lives of patients of end-stage organ failure,” said the SIUT official.

The Edhi family said the founder of the country’s largest charity was not pleased with people’s reluctance to donate their organs. “Now the way people have reacted over his death, one can hope they will follow him in donating their organs as well,” said a family member.

According to the Pakistan Eye Bank Society, there is a dire need to launch a movement for eye donation in Pakistan as blindness was on the rise in the country. “We receive some 300 to 400 eyes annually from Sri Lanka International Eye Bank, Colombo, for which we are much indebted to them, but our annual requirement is in thousands,” said the society.

The SIUT officials said Pakistan was ranked among the nations with record of least organ donations. “We need tens of thousands of organ donations, which, despite a bigger possibility, we can’t achieve only to see hapless people die,” said SIUT director Dr Adeeb-ul-Hassan Rizvi.

He said every year Pakistan needed 25,000 kidneys, 100,000 livers, 7,000 hearts, 2,000 pancreases and as many lungs for its ailing population. According to the SIUT, around 150,000 Pakistanis died of end-stage organ failure including renal, liver, lung, pancreas and heart failure every year.

Dr Rizvi said there was potential for salvaging organs from the people declared brain dead as long as they were hooked to ventilating support equipment. He said a dying human could donate at least 17 organs to help as many needy patients.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2016