An Edmonton eye specialist is encouraging his patients to push the province to pay for corneas from the United States in the face of a donor shortage in Canada.
Dr. David Climenhaga says the problem for patients in Alberta isn’t getting in to the operating room, but not having enough corneas to transplant.
"The waiting list is in excess of two years, probably approaching three years, for cornea tissue. If tissue was available then the people that are waiting would then have access to the surgery," said Climenhaga.
He’s been sending letters to patients, asking them to press the provincial government to buy corneas from south of the border, where they are more plentiful.
Rod Bennett, one of Climenhaga’s patients, has been waiting for transplant after losing sight in his left eye two years ago.
He’s worried he may lose sight in the right eye before a cornea becomes available.
"I'm getting to the point now where I'm saying, ‘I need this now. I'm ready. I need this now,’" he said.
"It's kind of like a plane in a holding pattern," he said. "You're hoping that you get there before you run out of fuel."
It’s estimated it would cost between $2,000 - $3,000 per cornea to bring them in from the United States, much of it for transportation of the organs.
In a written statement to CBC News, Alberta Health Services says it has no plans to purchase corneas from the U.S.