“This is a young boy in India, Kartick, and he was blinded in both eyes by infection.”
Monty Montoya is the president and CEO of Seattle-based company, SightLife.
“Infection got into his cornea, and the result left cloudy scars,” said Montoya.
Kartick was looking through fog 24/7 through both eyes. Monty wants to help blind people like Kartick to see again.
50,000 corneal transplant happen every year in U.S., but there are still over 10 million people in need for new cornea.
“There’s a big gap between 150,000 corneas availability and 10 million in need,” Montoya said.
SightLife is trying to close this gap since 1969.
“5,000 corneas are transplanted across the globe. With huge portion of those, it’s actually being transplanted in India.”
Bellevue based entrepreneur, Vishnu Arunachalam grew up in India.
“I started pursuing my dream of becoming a engineer and doing much more, but I was getting started with what life could be in the future. And then this disaster destroyed,” said Arunachalam.
That disaster was common disease that slowly changed his eyesight.
“Within the matter of three to four months, I completely lost a vision of one of my eyes, and the second one was progressively getting bad.”
Eventually he was blinded in both corneas… everyday life became very challenging.
“I would have a hard time of even finding out bus numbers, so I can even get on the bus. It has to come close, so I can figure it out. I would sit the first bench in college, so I can look at the board. I would still have trouble reading off what a professor was writing on the board,” said Arunachalam.
But SightLife helped him to restore his vision to 20/20. He said it was a life changing transplant.
“Personally for me there were a lot of things that I didn’t know they were really that way because I’ve forgotten about how they looked. Once I got my vision back it was clear,” said Arunachalam. “I was able to see my mother’s face and father’s face a lot more clearly.”
There are still many developing countries like India and Ethiopia with 350,000 children born each year with corneal blindness.
Montoya mentioned when it comes to global health cornea blindness is very solvable problem.
“We actually have all the technology we need. We know how to source corneas. We know how train surgeons how to do transplant. We just have to execute on that… to make cornea available for everyone that needs one,” said Montoya.
He says that if you really want to help- be an organ donor. The donations can help somebody to see the world through eyes.
“When he realized now he could see through both eyes he had to show a photographer that he’s going to be a superhero because he could do anything now he could see.”