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Appeal for eye donations after death: Barkingside man shares story of life-changing transplant

PUBLISHED: 11:53 05 April 2019 | UPDATED: 11:53 05 April 2019

Barkingside resident, David Gable can now drive and play golf after a transplant. Picture: Fight for Sight.

Barkingside resident, David Gable can now drive and play golf after a transplant. Picture: Fight for Sight.

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From spring 2020 all residents will be considered organ donors unless they opt out.

David with his wife Elaine. Picture:Fight for SightDavid with his wife Elaine. Picture:Fight for Sight

While this is good for donations in general, charity Fight for Sight is concerned that people with vision problems will lose out.

In a YouGov poll 39per cent of Londoners declared eyes as the body part they would least like to donate when selecting from a list of organs – only 5pc said the same for their heart and 3pc for their lungs.

Furthermore, just 36pc said they would consent to donate the eyes of a loved one after they died.

One Barkingside man knows how life-changing organ donation can be after a transplant gave him back his sight.

Ex-city worker, David Gable, 72, was diagnosed with the eye condition Keratoconus in his 20s and his vision deteriorated so much that he became virtually blind.

“I initially wore hard contact lenses that helped me to see normally and carry on with my day to day life,” he said.

“However, without the lenses, my sight had deteriorated so much that I was virtually blind – I couldn’t open the curtains to bright sunlight, prepare food, and I was always tripping up.“

David explained that eventually his condition got to the point where he needed a corneal graft in both eyes.

“The surgery has made all the difference.

“I don’t have perfect vision but I can see well enough to drive and play golf.

“I’m really grateful to have received this surgery – today a corneal transplant can restore sight for people with conditions like mine.”

More than 52pc of participants in the YouGov poll who would not donate their eyes after death said they felt eyes were too personal. 
Another 30pc said the idea made them feel too squeamish to consent.

However, after being informed of the significant shortfall of corneas available, 41pc of people changed their minds and said they would consider donating their eyes.

As a GP, Gill Fargher understands the importance of donation, but she was also forced to face the issue personally when her husband died unexpectedly from a cardiac arrest in 2015.

She knew that Tristan wished for his body to be used after his death and was able to give permission for his organs, including both of his corneas, to be donated to someone in need.
“My husband Tris was so full of life, his death was completely unexpected and a huge shock,” she said.

“He was in intensive care for 12 days following a cardiac arrest and I had to make a decision about whether to donate his organs.

“It really helped that Tris and I had discussed organ donation before and that I knew what he wanted – I would urge others to have the conversation with loved ones today about organ donation.
“My life was shattered but I know that because of Tris, two people have had their sight restored and others have had their lives transformed too, and that is a source of great pride and comfort – Tris saved the lives of two people by donating his kidneys and has transformed the lives of 10 others by donating his corneas and tissues.”
Gill now helps raise awareness of the importance of organ and tissue donation and chairs the Organ Donation Committee at Medway NHS Foundation Trust.
She added:“Family consent is sought before organ and tissue donation can actually take place and families will refuse to give consent in 40pc of potential donors if they are unaware of their loved one’s wishes.

“That is why it’s really important to let your family know of your wishes, whether you are on the organ donation register or not.

“I am so grateful that Tris and I had talked about organ donation and I knew that in giving consent for organ and tissue donation, I was acting with his permission and his wishes.”

If you want your eyes to give the gift of sight after your death, make sure your loved ones know your wishes. Also make sure you have registered your wishes on the organ donation register, visit organdonation.nhs.uk/register-to-donate

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