A Wearside mum is calling on more people to donate considcer donating their eyes after their death - and give others in need the gift of sight.
Deborah Fowler’s plea comes after NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) revealed its eye banks are 21% below the level needed supply hospitals.
NHSBT is calling on more people to agree to donate their sight to meet the growing demand for corneas in the ageing population.
As of last month there were 278 corneas in NHSBT’s eye banks - which are in Manchester and Bristol.
The organisation aim to have 350 corneas in these banks at any one time to supply to hospitals for patients.
NHS Blood and Transplant needs 70 donations a week to meet the demand for sight saving transplants but there is a regular shortfall in donations.
The shortage of donors leads to patients waiting longer for transplants.
Almost anyone can donate their eyes for cornea transplants when they die, including people with some cancers.
The cornea is the clear tissue on the front of the eye that help the eye to focus light.
Deborah, 40, from Tunstall, had a cornea transplant in 2015 as a result of kerat o conus.
Her illness was diagnosed when she was 36, after she started to lose her vision and found herself struggling to read numbers.
Her sight went on to be affected further by blurring and shadows.
Her eyesight was stabilised with collagen cross linking but then she developed a serious infection which led to her cornea perforating and the complete loss of vision in her right eye.
Married Deborah, who works as a financial payments assistant, said: “I also had very poor vision in the left eye so overall my vision was too poor to work.
“I struggled going out in the dark.
“I became very depressed because my sight, something I relied on, was being taken away. I didn’t drive for 11 months.”
Deborah waited two years for a transplant, to recover from the perforation, but developed a huge cataract which led to an emergency cornea transplant in her right eye.
“The transplant and recovery went smoothly considering the complications the consultants expected from my past history,” said Deborah.
“It was the most amazing best gift ever to get my sight back.
“I can go out a lot more in the dark, I can read more clearly, and go back to work.
“I take anti rejection medication just in case it rejects as I have a highly vascularised cornea.
“I think about my donor a lot. I could not thank my donor and their enough for what I have received.”
Helen Gillan, general manager for Tissue and Eye Services at NHSBT, said: “Our eye banks are currently well below the level we’d like to see. You can help us by saying yes to cornea donation. Almost anyone can donate their sight.
“People tell us the decision to donate brings a sense of pride and comfort.
“Please support sight donation and help patients see what they can currently only imagine.”
Those who have registered but aren’t sure if they said yes to cornea donation can update their preferences at www.organdonation.nhs.uk.