Moorfields undertakes more than a thousand corneal transplants a year, none of which would be possible without the kindness and generosity of those who agree to be tissue donors.
Each year, hundreds of patients walk away from Moorfields having undergone a corneal transplant, or corneal graft, quite simply with “the gift of sight”. Patients like Chris Watkins, a retired broadcast journalist, who was diagnosed with Fuchs’ dystrophy, a progressive disease that affects the cornea which if left untreated can lead to blindness. Or Dhivya Sivanesan who suffered for 15 years with keratoconus and was referred to Moorfields for a transplant. Their lives have simply been transformed by that all-important donor, the skill of the surgeons, and the team at the Moorfields Lions Eye Bank who retrieve and prepare the tissue for transplantation.
Khilan Shah, the eye bank manager explains the importance of tissue donation in saving sight: “One pair of eyes can be used in 10 different sight saving operations. Even the parts of the eye that can’t be transplanted, including the retina, macular and optic nerve, can be used by various research groups at the Institute of Ophthalmology to develop new sight-saving treatments. People who donate really are making a difference to many people’s lives and, on average, one pair of eyes is donated a day, but there is always a shortage.”
Without suitable corneas, patients have to face having their operations cancelled.
Mr. Bruce Allan, a consultant in the corneal service at Moorfields explains why the donation service is so vital: “Without this tissue, we would have to buy the corneas from abroad or from the NHS Blood and Tissue Bank which is also facing shortages. Buying issue is expensive for the NHS, and we also cannot use any of that tissue for research purposes to develop new ocular surface treatments and support research undertaken by for example the Cells for Sight programme. So, our research is dependent on the kindness of those who volunteer to donate their tissue after their deaths.”
You can find out more about the work of the eye bank and tissue donation from the YES EYE CAN campaign.
To register as a donor, please visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk/how_to_become_a_donor.