A mother pleads with Brits to donate their eyes when they die – after a transplant restored their eyesight.
Shelley Hague, 33, began losing her eyesight in her late twenties before she was diagnosed with a rare disease.
She suffered from posterior polymorphic corneal dystrophy (PPCD), which caused severe pain and impaired vision.
It got so bad that the vet manager started avoiding situations where her eye was troubled – and was forced to drive.
She also had to change her role at work as her eyesight deteriorated and she was unable to do her previous job properly.
Eventually she was told that a transplant was the only solution and she was put on the waiting list.
Covid caused her surgery to be delayed, but she had the procedure in November 2020 – and noticed an almost immediate difference.
Shelley, a mother of two, said, “My cornea transplant restored my eyesight and gave me my independence.
“Several of my family and friends have spoken to me about corneal donation since my transplant. They said they weren’t really aware of the impact it could have on others until they heard my story.
“If someone were undecided about the cornea donation, I would say do it – you could change someone’s life so incredibly.
“It can feel daunting, but you are doing something so precious and irreplaceable. I am so grateful to my donor and his family.”
Shelley wrote to her donor family thanking them for choosing to agree to donate.
She told them the transplant made “an incredible difference” and “changed my life”.
One in 10 people on the NHS organ donor registry says they don’t want to donate their cornea.
Cornea is the part of the body that most people say they don’t want to donate.
But studies conducted by NHS Blood and Transplant found that donations are more likely to be approved if loved ones know what their relatives wanted.
As of October 11, there were 204 corneas in the NHS Blood and Transplant eye banks.
That number is far less than the 350 corneas that are needed for hospital care at one time – and means longer waiting times for patients like Shelley to have their eyesight restored.
Kyle Bennett, Assistant Director for Tissue and Eye Services at NHS Blood and Transplant, said, “Corneal donation means there can be light after dark.
“Nobody should have to leave without being able to see loved ones, so we remind people to give eyesight.
“We understand that people often look at the eyes with more emotions and see them as more symbolic than other parts of the body, but what greater gift can you give someone than the world around you, the faces of your loved ones and the independence that comes with it that you can see things with your own eyes again.
“Our corneal bank has fewer corneas than are required for those waiting for a transplant, which means people like Shelley have to wait longer for a life-enhancing procedure.
“If you consent to a cornea donation, please help by sharing your decision with friends and family so they are better equipped to act for you should that day ever come.”
3,478 corneas were donated from April 2020 to April 2021 – a decrease of 35 percent compared to the previous year.
This will have been heavily influenced by the coronavirus pandemic but is a positive sign that donations have continued despite the global disruption.
Dr. Dale Gardiner, National Clinical Lead for Organ Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said, “During the height of the pandemic, we saw incredible family support for organ donation with a record number of families agreeing to donate and providing lifesaving assistance to those waiting for organ transplants .