Mr. Belcher: experience of a donor family
A Donor’s story
There are many reasons why people become eye donors but each one that does fulfils a vital role at Moorfields Eye Hospital. Here Peter Belcher tells why his wife donated her eyes to research.
A simple night out on a family holiday in Sicily led to the beginning of a devastating discovery for one London family,
Describing the scene Mr Peter Belcher said: “We had two sons and we decided to go for a drink at the hotel bar which was in the basement but the room was lit by ultra violet light. My eldest son John, 12, couldn’t see when we were in there and that was the start of our journey.”
It was to be a journey that would take them to many different hospitals and finally a referral to Moorfields for genetic testing to discover the cause of the sight loss.
At that consultation Peter recalls the consultant delivered this diagnosis: “Both your sons have retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and they will be blind by the time they are 16 or 60.”
Retinitis pigmentosa is the name given to an inherited genetic condition that leads to loss of vision and blindness. It involves the death of light sensitive cells in the retina. The retina fails to function and the patient is blind even though the nerves that transmit information from the eye to the visual part of the brain still work.
The couple were stunned by the diagnosis but there was more to come. “Because of Moorfields’ interest they required my wife to have a test also and found she also had RP and that she was a carrier for the disease.”
Describing how his wife lived with RP Peter said: “She wasn’t really affected throughout her life except for the last 10-15 years when she began to walk into door posts or trip over things, we realised her peripheral vision was going and she then had regular tests. It was in the last year of her life she went blind.”
Sheila Belcher was diagnosed with RP in 1983 and it was then that she made the decision to become an eye donor.
Peter explains why: “Finding out that RP was a hereditary disease and that she had passed it onto our sons made Sheila decide she wanted to try and avoid that happening in the future to other people. She signed up to be a donor then.”
“She thought it would help to donate her eyes for research into retinitis pigmentosa and this wish I have carried out with the cooperation of the Moorfields Lions Eye Bank. I do hope that it will help with future research into the disease.”