Iowa Corneal Transplant | Iowa Organ Donor

April 28, 2021

April Is National Donate Life Month, Are You An Organ Donor?

Across the country more than 100,000 people are waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant. Throughout the month of April, supporters around the world take time to celebrate National Donate Life Month focusing on the generosity of those who have saved lives by donating organs and to spread awareness to encourage more Americans to become organ donors. National Donate Life Month (NDLM) was established by Donate Life America in 2003 and works to unite all organ donation and transplantation organizations. The importance of donation is all encompassing with various organs, including eye and tissue donation. At Wolfe Eye Clinic, we are proud to be able to help patients restore sight through cornea donations in partnership with Iowa Lions Eye Bank and the Iowa Donor Network.

Learn more about Corneal Transplants and Donate Life Month by watching Dr. Matthew Rauen be interviewed this week on WHO Channel 13’s Hello Iowa! Click here.

What is a corneal transplant?

A corneal transplant is a surgery that can restore vision, reduce pain and improve an unhealthy cornea. They may be needed for those suffering from vision loss due to corneal injuries, infections or more often due to corneal blindness from traumas, Keratoconus, Fuchs’ Dystrophy or corneal degeneration. The cornea surgeons at Wolfe Eye Clinic are unique in that they are trained ophthalmologists who have continued on for further training in specialized cornea advancements to be able to perform surgical procedures and treat corneal diseases with the most advanced technics.

The cornea plays a key role in vision and is made up of five layers. It is the outer most portion of the eye which helps you see clearly and is the eye’s first defense against damage to the rest of they eye. If your cornea is damaged by an injury, infection, or disease and there is corneal scarring it can affect your vision by blocking or distorting light as it enters your eye resulting the need for a cornea transplant. If surgery is needed, the cornea surgeon removes a portion of the cornea and replaces it with donor corneal tissue. Cornea donation is an important piece of organ donation and unique in that one cornea donor can restore sight to two people and can assist in the preservation and restoration of sight.

“We’re lucky to be in Iowa where we can work with great organizations such as the Iowa Lion’s Eye Bank and the Iowa Donor Network to provide partial or full corneal transplants at Wolfe Eye Clinic, said Matthew Rauen, MD. “The outcomes that we are able to provide in the restoration of vision are so humbling to us and our patients.”

Ready to be an Organ Donor?

In the United States, 95% of Americans are in favor of being a donor but yet only 58% are registered. According to Donate Life every 10 minutes another person is added to the transplant list and 20 people die each day by waiting on an organ they need. Just by being a donor you have the power to share the gift of life by having the power to help. If you are a donor you may be able to save up to eight lives from your organs, cornea, and your tissue. Are you a registered donor? It takes less than five minutes at!

How do you know if you can be an organ donor? Choosing to be an organ donor allows all of your organs to be considered for those waiting on the list for a certain type of transplant or need. According to U.S. National Library of Medicine, people who suffer from AIDS, Hepatitis B or C, Leukemia, Tetanus or a communicable disease such as meningitis, cholera or rabies my not be able to be an organ donor.

Below is a list of people who may be a great eye donor:

  • Regardless of age or medical history
  • People who have an astigmatism
  • People who have had cataract surgery
  • People who wear glasses or contacts
  • People wo do not suffer from non-communicable disease
  • People with diabetes or asthma

Share the Gift of Sight Through Organ Donation

Organ donation provides forever gifts to honor the living donors, donor families, supporters and for those who are currently waiting. There are so many inspiring stories and it is our hope here that by sharing these in partnership with Iowa Lions Eye Bank and Iowa Donor Network, it will encourage you or someone you know in sharing the gift of life.


Iowa Sisters in Sight

Dr. Matthew Rauen | Iowa Corneal Transplant SurgeonDr. Matthew Rauen, a corneal surgeon here at Wolfe Eye Clinic had the privilege of restoring sight to not one sibling but two sisters! Rebecca (Becky) and Roberta (Bobbi) Daggett of Winterset were both diagnosed with Fuchs’ Corneal Dystrophy and needed bilateral corneal transplants. Due to their eye disease it caused cells in the endothelial layer of their corneas to die off, causing fluid to build-up and creating cloudy vision. Corneal transplants were necessary to restore the diminishing sight both sisters were experiencing.

“During the months prior to surgery, nearly all our appointments with Dr. Rauen were together and in the same exam room. Both Dr. Rauen and his staff dubbed us ‘The Twins’—even though we are four years apart.” Becky shared.

Read the full story from Iowa Lion’s Eye Bank here.

The Gift of Life

Garret Brockway, just 10 years old suffered traumatic brain injuries after being struck by a tree in 2013 and his parents were informed four days following his accident that he would not survive. “The decision to have Garrett be an organ, cornea and tissue donor was simple. He was a loving and giving boy and we knew he would want to help as many other people as he could. That simple decision of saying “YES” resulted in 132 people’s lives being saved and impacted across the United States and into Canada! wrote Tiffini, Garret’s mother. To learn more about Garrett and his story, go to

In 2008, 19-year-old Ashley Shoemaker lost her father to a massive heart attack. He was only 55 years old, filled with an array of emotions and struggling with grief something positive happened. She received a letter from a complete stranger thanking her and her family as they were a recipient of an organ from her father.  “Knowing that my dad's death helped someone finally gave me something positive to think about after struggling with all the negatives for so long. Because of Iowa Donor Network and the gift of donation, my dad's death gave someone the gift of life and that someone gave me the gift of feeling alive again.” wrote Ashley.

In honor of National Donate Life Month, take this moment to do your research and be an organ donor. From newborn to senior citizens and all who are in between you can transform the life or someone who is suffering from the need of an organ transplant. It’s easy, just visit today!