NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) has revealed that its eye banks are 21% below the level needed to supply hospitals, leading to delays in cornea transplant operations.
At the end of September, there were 278 corneas in the service’s Manchester and Bristol eye banks. The target level is 350.
NHSBT need around 70 donations a week to meet the demand for corneal transplants, but there are regular shortfalls.
According to an NHSBT spokesperson, the eyes are the part of the body that people are most likely to avoid donating in their preferences on the NHS Organ Donor Register.
Around 3000 families agree to donate their relative’s eyes each year. The whole eye is donated but only the cornea is transplanted into the recipient.
Greenwich resident, Laura Grady, 36, had two cornea transplants for an undiagnosed illness.
Ms Grady noticed that her vision was misty in the morning, and then would clear during the day.
“By the time I had a transplant I couldn’t see out of my right eye. It was just grey. I could see light and dark but no definition at all. After the transplants I can see my two-year-old son Noah’s lovely little face,” she shared.
Andrew Senior’s eyes were donated to the NHSBT when he died of pancreatic cancer aged 59 in 2016.
His daughter, Vivien Senior, 27, said her father had an aggressive form of cancer that meant it was only two months after his diagnosis that he died.
“The doctors told us it wouldn't be safe to donate his organs, but that the one thing they could safely give to a patient was his corneas,” she shared.
Ms Senior received a letter to say that her father’s corneas had successfully been used for a transplant.
“It's a miracle to us that someone somewhere has had their sight restored or saved because of dad,” she emphasised.
People can register for organ donation or change their organ donation preferences online.