A new development in organ donation services in the Northern Trust has led to four eye donations in Causeway Hospital over the last year.
Last September two members of staff, Anna Carton Cassells, Intensive Care Unit Staff Nurse in Causeway Hospital and Edward Harrington, Pathology Technician in Antrim Area Hospital, travelled to Manchester where they completed an Eye Retrieval Course.
Since then Anna has been able to carry out four eye retrievals in Causeway Hospital which has had a life-changing impact, potentially, for over 60 people.
She said: “I have been interested in organ and tissue donation since being a student nurse however it was only in September 2013 that I got the opportunity to fulfil my dream of helping and becoming a cog in a very large wheel which is the organ and tissue donation process.
“I am really proud to be a retriever and help others as one set of eyes can help 16 people in different ways with their sight so I would ask others to please carry a card or register as donors make such an impact on other people’s lives.”
In Antrim Area Hospital Edward has also conducted four eye retrievals. Previous to them completing the course the Trust had to rely on the Royal Victoria and Altnagelvin Hospitals to perform eye retrievals.
The retrieval of eyes has to take place within 24 hours of death. The delay in the procedure being performed also resulted in a delay for bereaved families to get their loved ones remains home.
One such person who appreciates the impact of this workis Philip Catherwood, 39, from Coleraine. Due to a medical condition Philip’s sight had deteriorated significantly.
He explains: “Daily living had become a chore as I was in constant pain, my eyes were extremely sensitive to light and dust and I had very poor vision. I was fortunate to have a corneal transplant on my right eye at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast and on my left eye in Altnagelvin Hospital nearly ten years later.
“Both operations have had a drastic impact on my quality of life and I can play with my kids, work, go on holiday, volunteer and take part in all aspects of life which would have been extremely difficult before.
“To think my local hospital is now undertaking part of the work which could help someone else in this way is very rewarding.”
He continued: “I am registered for organ donation myself - it took 2 minutes online - , because I realise that without someone else’s selfless act my life would be considerably more miserable.
“I wish I could thank the two people who literally gave of themselves; but of course that is impossible. Perhaps one day I might get to take their profound act of generosity and pass it forward to change another life.”
Since the new hospital opened in 2001 there had been no eye donors in Causeway Hospital.
Mary McAfee, Organ Donation Specialist Nurse, for the hospital, says: “Now we have our own in house retriever it has raised awareness regarding tissue donation with the Intensive Care Unit and Emergency Department staff meaning more families are being offered the opportunity to consider donating eyes following the death of their loved one.
“While these developments are a significant help, I would still urge families to please discuss organ and tissue donation and know your family and loved ones wishes. I would also like to thank those families who consented to donating these and other organs and tissues throughout the year, there is no doubt many people have benefitted as a direct result.”