Corneal Transplant Transforms Life for Anahit
Anahit Borecyan, a 62 year-old mother of three, worked hard her entire life to provide a fulfilling and comfortable lifestyle for her children. After her husband’s death, she became the only breadwinner in the family. For the past 10 years, Anahit has been working at “Treasures of Armenia,” a boutique-style folk art gallery located in downtown Yerevan that offers beautiful artisanal creations – all handmade locally in Armenia. Each of these fairy tale-infused handicrafts is a unique, individual and expressive work of art that truly represents Armenia and its roots. Behind most of these creations is Anahit’s love for her culture and hours of detailed craftwork – knitting and sewing exquisite clothes, making beautiful dolls in traditional Armenian costumes and even assembling intricate jewelry. Anahit’s versatile talents have not only secured her a stable job that provides for her family but have given thousands of locals and tourists the opportunity to see the beauty and richness of Armenian culture and traditions.
As time went on, Anahit developed a rare eye disease, which affected her corneal tissue and ultimately, her sight. She tried wearing glasses and lenses to correct her vision but nothing would help. Anahit couldn’t even see the customers walking into the store. She realized that she might be losing her sight and with that, her job and income. Soon, Anahit could not even walk on the street by herself and started experiencing severe pain in her eyes. Eventually her cornea became completely damaged and inflamed, bringing Anahit the uneasy feeling of “swollen and exploding” eye. Anahit urgently needed a corneal transplant and access to treatment but the cost of the surgery was equal to more than seven months of her salary, and Anahit couldn’t even begin to think about it. Sadly, she realized that with no funds, the only choice for her was to go blind.
In Armenia, eye diseases bring a tremendous hardship not only for the patient, but also the entire family, challenging their already scarce resources and becoming an economic burden. Complicated eye treatments and especially surgeries such as corneal transplants are out of reach for the majority of residents in Armenia. Thanks to the Armenian EyeCare Project, thousands of patients like Anahit have been able to receive these life-changing surgeries free of charge. As part of its mission to eliminate preventable blindness in the country, the Armenian EyeCare Project has been working hard to create a sustainable eye care delivery model in the country through educating and training local doctors, donating millions of dollars in equipment and supplies and providing the surgeons with the tools they need to utilize the knowledge they gained to help their patients.
Anthony Aldave, M.D. from UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute in the United States is one of the doctors working with the Armenian EyeCare Project. Over the years, Dr. Aldave spent countless hours to help Armenian doctors master corneal transplantation techniques, transferring his knowledge and years of experience to build a solid foundation for the future.
With the support of many dedicated doctors and donors, in 2016, the Armenian EyeCare Project established its Corneal Transplant Program to finance corneal transplants for patients in need as the high cost of the surgery — around $800 — was not an option for many. In addition to the surgery cost, access to corneal tissue was another big issue in Armenia. Fortunately, the Project began partnering with one of the leading eye banks in the United States that generously donates corneas for transplant to patients who experience financial hardships.
Following her successful corneal transplant surgery, Anahit opened her eyes to a whole new life in front of her, full of colors and opportunities to continue enjoying her work, family and friends. “I can see clearly now and I don’t have any pain!” Anahit exclaims with a bright smile of gratitude on her face. “It’s such a joy to be able to come to work in the morning and enjoy my job. In the evening, as I leave the store, I am able to walk down my favorite streets, admire the beauty of Yerevan and see people around me!”
Without a doubt, if it wasn’t for the Armenian EyeCare Project’s timely assistance, Anahit would have lost both her sight and her income, becoming a burden for her children and living the rest of her life with partial vision, unable to take care of herself or her children. “I am very thankful to the doctors for all the help I received from them,” Anahit said. “They truly saved me!”
With the ability to receive corneal transplants free of charge, the lives and health of many Armenians have significantly improved. The Armenian EyeCare Project will continue this important mission with the kind support of its generous donors in the United States.