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Registered organ donors often avoid ticking box for eyes, but many need gift of sight

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It should have been a relatively uncomplicated surgery — removing a cataract in Alvin Hallett’s right eye. But somehow the surgeon accidentally struck his cornea, rendering him blind in that eye.

“I had no vision whatsoever,” the 82-year-old from Burk’s Falls, Ont., south of North Bay, said of the April 2017 incident. “I couldn’t see to drive. My wife had to do all the driving. I couldn’t see to boat on the lake. I couldn’t plant my little garden. All I could do was ride my riding lawn mower and cut all my grass.”

But a year later, Hallett’s vision was restored with a corneal transplant, thanks to one of the 2,300 deceased Ontarians who each year donate eye tissue to give others the gift of sight.

Of those 2,300 pairs of eyes, tissue from about 1,700 are used for corneal transplants, said Christine Humphreys, director of the Eye Bank of Canada. “And also in addition to the cornea, we have over 600 other ocular surgeries take place.”

How donated eye tissue is removed and stored depends on the needs of recipients, she said.

“We get the whole globes, but we also get just the corneas,” Humphreys said. “We don’t have to take the whole eye.”

The cornea is the transparent layer covering the front of the eye, which lies over the iris and pupil. Donated corneas are stored in a refrigerated chamber, bathed in a medium containing nutrients and antibiotics, and remain viable for transplant for about 10 days.

The sclera, the white part of the eye surrounding the cornea, is used for a number of surgical procedures, including as a graft or patch in glaucoma surgery. Sclera tissue is stored at room temperature in alcohol and also has a relatively short shelf life.

The Eye Bank of Canada, which despite its name serves only Ontario, has been storing eye tissue since 1955, and is now affiliated with the non-profit community-based organization Kensington Health. Other provinces operate their own eye banks.

Humphreys said that like other tissues and organs from deceased donors, the demand for eye tissue lags supply: for instance, the average wait time for a cornea transplant in Ontario is 252 days — or more than eight months.

Of the 12.4 million residents of the province who are eligible to become donors, just over four million have registered to donate their organs and other tissues. And of those, about 400,000 elected not to tick the box for eye tissue, representing the highest exclusion rate of all organs and tissues that can be donated after death.

Humphreys admitted there are barriers to people agreeing to donate their eye tissue, often for religious or cultural reasons, but sometimes because of common misconceptions about eligibility or the process.

“One reason we hear all the time is ‘I don’t see very well,’ ‘I’ve had eye surgery’ or ‘I’m too old’ or ‘I’ve had cancer,’” she said. “And the fact is there are very few things that can result in not being a donor,” including having had a form of ocular surgery or cancer.

Some families worry that recovery of a loved one’s eye tissue would delay their funeral, which for religious reasons may need to be scheduled within 24 hours of death.

“But often we can meet that need, make the donation happen more quickly,” Humphreys said.

There can also be psychological barriers for some potential donors and their families, given such beliefs as the eyes being the “windows of the soul.”

“Some families, they have troubles with eyes for some reason,” conceded Humphreys. “Some people think (their loved one) might be disfigured.

“A lot of people don’t know we can recover just the corneas, leave behind the rest of the eye if they want.”

As well, funeral homes can use prosthetics to obscure the fact that eye tissue has been removed.

“Obviously, if you’re looking to having a viewing or an open-casket funeral, the funeral home will work with the family to restore their normal appearance,” she said, noting that there is no cost for the process to bank eye tissue and any extra fees charged by a funeral home are covered by the Eye Bank.

“A lot of people aren’t comfortable talking about death and what happens to us after dying. And I think if we normalize the discussion and we start to talk about it, a lot of (the discomfort) can be overcome by education.”

For Barbara Edwards, the decision to donate her father Dick Halverson’s eye tissue after he had a sudden fatal heart attack almost two years ago wasn’t difficult.

“We had talked about his wishes and he didn’t think he could donate — he thought he could donate, but not his eyes — because he had such thick glasses,” said Edwards, a hospital development co-ordinator at Trillium Gift of Life Network, Ontario’s organ and tissue donation and transplantation service.

“But when we heard from Trillium that that wasn’t true, that your vision didn’t affect your ability to donate, we knew right away it was yes … because we knew what he wanted.”

As it turned out, the 69-year-old wasn’t registered as a donor. He had planned to sign up on his next birthday, but died before, so his family made the decision.

“It was so special for us to be able to honour his legacy and be able to give the gift of sight to others,” Edwards said. “I didn’t realize how much after the fact that it would help in our grieving process, knowing that other people can be helped.”

Hallett, who retired in 2000 after selling his marina on a lake near his home, said his corneal transplant and subsequent cataract operation by a Toronto surgeon earlier this year has given him back his life.

“I’ve got good vision, very good. I can do anything I want,” he said, adding that he is so grateful to the anonymous donor that “I can’t even express what I feel.”

“I was totally grounded. It was a wonderful experience for me to get my sight back.”

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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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