I had a partial eye transplant – please think about donating yours when you die

A MUM wants Brits to think about donating their corneas when they die – after a transplant restored her sight.

Shelley Hague, 33, started first started to lose her vision in her late twenties before she was diagnosed with a rare condition.


She suffered with Posterior Polymorphous Corneal Dystrophy (PPCD), which would cause intense pain and affected her vision.

It got so bad the veterinary practice manager started to avoid situations where her eye would cause trouble – and was forced to stop driving.

She also had to change her role at work, as her sight worsened and she was unable to do her previous job properly.

Eventually, she was told a transplant was the only solution and went on the waiting list.

Covid caused her operation to be delayed, but she had the life-changing procedure in November 2020 – noticing an almost immediate difference.

Shelley, a mum-of-one, said: "My corneal transplant has restored my sight and given me back my independence again.

“Several of my family and friends have actually discussed cornea donation with me since my transplant. They said they weren’t really aware of the impact it could have on other people until they heard my story.

“If someone was on the fence about 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 valuable and irreplaceable. I am ever so grateful for my donor and his family."

Shelley wrote to her donor family, thanking them for making the decision to agree to donation.

She told them the transplant has made an “incredible difference” and “changed my life”.

One in 10 people on the NHS Organ Donor Register say they don't want to donate their corneas.

Corneas are the part of the body that most people say they do not want to donate.

But studies done by NHS Blood and Transplant found donation is more likely to be agreed if loved ones know what their relative wanted.

My corneal transplant has restored my sight and given me back my independence again.

As of October 11, there were 204 corneas in NHS Blood and Transplant’s eye banks.

This number is far less than the 350 corneas needed at any one time to supply to hospitals – and means longer waits for patients like Shelley to have their sight restored.

Kyle Bennett, Assistant Director for Tissue and Eye Services at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Cornea donation means there can be light after darkness.

"No one should have to go without being able to see their loved ones, which is why we are reminding people to consider giving the gift of sight.

“We understand that people often view the eyes with more emotion and see them as more symbolic than other parts of the body, but what greater gift can you give to someone than the ability to see the world around them, their loved ones faces and the independence which comes from being able to once again see things with their own eyes.

“There are less corneas in our eye bank than are needed for those waiting for a transplant, meaning people like Shelley are having to wait longer for a life enhancing procedure.

"If you agree to 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.”

'CHANGED MY LIFE'

Between April 2020 to April 2021 3,478 corneas were donated – a 35 per cent decrease on the year before.

This will have been hugely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, but is a positive sign that donations continued despite the worldwide disruptions.

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 record numbers of families agreeing to donation and providing those waiting with life-saving organ transplants.

"This is testament to the strong foundation of altruism, and support for donation, across the UK.

"We hope to see this continue, particularly now the law around organ donation has changed in England and Scotland and the NHS continues on the road to recovery.”


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