• Durham OnAir

Cornea recipient Deborah got the Gift of Sight back after complete loss of vision in one eye


Deborah Fowler, 45, started to lose her vision and found herself struggling to read numbers. Her sight went on to be affected further by blurring and shadows. At the age of 36 she was diagnosed with keratoconus.

Her eyesight was stabilised with collagen cross linking, which is a treatment for keratoconus using eyedrop medication. However, Deborah developed a serious infection which led to her cornea perforating and the complete loss of vision in her right eye.

Deborah, who works in finance and is from Sunderland, says: “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.”

This World Sight Day [Thursday, October 13], Deborah is calling on others to speak with their families and register their support for cornea donation.

Far more people can donate corneas than can donate organs. People who have terminal illnesses can donate their corneas as well, as corneas do not contain blood vessels, so most cancers and other diseases cannot be passed on to the recipient. Corneas can also be used from donors of any age.

However, many older people are not aware they can safely and successfully donate. There is a general shortage of donors, and NHS Blood and Transplant’s eye banks only have around 228 corneas in stock, compared to the 350 needed. (1)

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.

Deborah says: “The transplant and recovery went smoothly considering the complications the consultants expected from my past history.”

“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. The last time I got my eyes checked at the hospital they said my sight is better than they thought it would be. I think about my donor a lot. I could not thank my donor and their family enough for what I have received.”

Amanda Ranson, Head of Operations, Tissue and Eye Services at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Cornea donation means there can be light after darkness, and sight after blindness.

“We understand that some people feel less comfortable about cornea donation. We also know many older people don’t realise they can donate, even if they have eye sight problems or other health problems – we provide corneas for transplant from donors in their 70s, 80s, and 90s.

“If you want to help others to see, please share your decision.”