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Sri Lanka donates eyes to the world

Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP

In this Oct. 16, 2011 photo, a worker at the Sri Lanka Eye Donation Society holds three corneas in bottles with preservatives, ready to be sent abroad, in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

At 10:25 a.m., a dark brown eye was removed from a man whose lids had closed for the last time. Five hours later, the orb was staring up at the ceiling from a stainless steel tray in an operating room with two blind patients — both waiting to give it a second life.

S.P.D. Siriwardana, 63, remained still under a white sheet as the surgeon delicately replaced the cornea that had gone bad in his right eye following a cataract surgery. Across the room, patient A.K. Premathilake, 32, waited for the sclera, the white of the eye, to provide precious stem cells and restore some vision after acid scalded his sight away on the job.

"The eye from this dead person was transplanted to my son," said A.K. Admon Singho, who guided Premathilake through the hall after the surgery. "He's dead, but he's still alive. His eye can still see the world."

Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP

In this Nov. 4, 2011 photo, people wait in a line to get their eyes examined as a staffer, foreground, examines the eye of a cataract patient at the Sri Lanka Eye Donation Society in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP

In this Nov. 2, 2011 photo, a worker with the Sri Lanka Eye Donation Society holds a parcel containing corneas ready to be sent abroad in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Read the rest of this fascinating story.