Shortage of donors deprives children of blindness cure

Babies born with eye disorders are at risk of permanent blindness because of a shortage of donors for transplant operations.

Babies born with eye disorders are at risk of permanent blindness because of a shortage of donors for transplant operations.

A surgical technique developed within the last decade has brought the promise of a cure to children who faced a lifetime of blindness. But now it is threatened by a lack of donors.

Ken Nischal, consultant ophthalmologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, was forced to appeal yesterday for donors to help six children aged from 11 months to 13 years waiting for new corneas - the transparent covering at the front of the eyeball.

The appeal is urgent because the developing brain has to learn to see and it cannot do so without visual stimulus from the eyes. Even a delay of a few months can leave a permanent deficit. "The longer the wait, the greater the visual deficit," said Mr Nischal. "I have one baby aged nine months old who has been waiting five months. That is more than half his lifetime."

Mr Nischal, who has pioneered cornea transplants in babies and young children in Britain, said the availability of donors had fallen since the Alder Hey scandal in 2001, when it emerged that the bodies of dead children had been stripped of their organs and stored at Alder Hey hospital, Liverpool, without the consent of parents. "We do think Alder Hey has made the situation worse," he said. "There has been a definite fall off in the availability of organs from donors at a younger age."

Among the children whose sight is at risk is Harry Gurney-Randall, now aged two, whose eyes were cloudy at birth. Transplants were performed on both eyes before he was 16 weeks old but they were rejected by his body. His mother, a 42-year-old manager at the British Medical Journal, said: "Now he will need two new grafts. We have tried to get a match [which is necessary for second attempts] but because there are not enough donors available we can't afford the time. It is desperate. The days are ticking past. It is very difficult to deal with that."

A donor has been found for one eye and an operation is scheduled for December, but a second donor has yet to be found.

Corneal transplant is routine in adults but a high risk procedure in children. The eyeball is in danger of collapse and the operation calls for a high degree of surgical and anaesthetic skill. Children also run a higher risk of rejection, in which the new cornea turns cloudy, and require frequent monitoring in the early weeks.

Until 10 years ago, doctors were taught that nothing could be done for children who suffered from eye conditions such as Peter's Anomaly and sclerocornea. Mr Nischal learnt the new technique during a spell working with surgeons in Toronto, Canada, in 1997 and now runs the main centre for the surgery in the UK at Great Ormond Street.

Over six years he has treated more than 50 children, of whom 36 have received transplants. Donors must be aged over two and under 22. Corneas taken from infants who have died and older adults can cause problems with rejection.

"Finding donors is really difficult. People don't consider that children may need a corneal graft," Mr Nischal said.

Suggested Topics
News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Associate Recrutiment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

    Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

    £120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

    PMLD Teacher

    Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

    Day In a Page

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

    Time to stop running

    At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence