We’re supporting families to give ‘the gift of sight’

The East Anglian Eye Bank, part of the Ophthalmic Directorate, delivers a vital service identifying potential corneal donors and performing eye retrievals.

The small team consisting of Lisa Knights, East Anglian Eye Bank Manger, and Amanda Mabey, Assistant Eye Bank Coordinator, who cover the whole of Norfolk. Last year they worked with 138 families who were happy for their loved ones to donate.

“We are very proud of our role that enables transplants to be carried out across Norfolk and beyond,” said Lisa Knights.

“In 2022 at this hospital alone, 80 patients donated their corneas which potentially enabled 160 people to see, giving the gift of sight.”

“We are based in the Nelson Day Unit but are often out and about in Norfolk investigating patients who have passed away,” added Lisa.

“In fact, we only have a 24-hour window to do the investigations and establish if a patient’s eyes can be retrieved. Last year we investigated the possibility of corneal retrieval in 3,585 deaths in Norfolk which led to us approaching 293 families and ultimately 138 families agreeing for their loved ones to donate.

“We first check the NHS Organ Donor Register to ascertain the deceased’s wishes, however we can also approach those families whose loved ones did not state whether they wanted to donate.

“Some conversations with families of course can be emotional which is a challenging aspect of the job, especially when a patient has passed away unexpectedly.

“When we speak to bereaved families many of them do get comfort from the knowledge that their loved one’s eyes will change the life of at least two other people.

“The eyes are sent to either one of two eye banks, Bristol or Liverpool, and in the space of just a few weeks, a transplant at a hospital in this country takes place.

“My background is in Cardiology, and I received on the job training and training with NHS Blood and Transplant when I  started in the role. I feel that this is a very special job, and extremely rewarding.”

Please don’t hesitate to contact Lisa and Amanda at the Eye Bank for further information.