Transplants save sight of Yorkshire mum amid huge donor register appeal

Jenny Craven. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
Jenny Craven. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
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A Yorkshire mum has revealed that she would be all but blind if brave organ donors had not stepped in to save her sight.

Mum-of-one Jenny Craven, 39, from Bingley, had her third corneal transplant in Leeds in June amid a long-running battle with eye condition keratoconus which affects just one in 3,000 people.

Since being diagnosed with the condition, which causes the corneas to weaken, at the age of 10, she has undergone nine operations on her eyes.

The physiotherapist has never been able to drive due to her eyesight but hopes her latest transplant will change that.

It comes as the Yorkshire Post Newspapers-backed Be A Hero organ donation campaign renews its call for people to sign the NHS Organ Donor Register while around 700 people are currently waiting for transplants in Yorkshire.

“If I hadn’t had these transplants I wouldn’t be able to see now. It’s made a massive difference – a total life-changer,” she said.

Jenny Craven. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

Jenny Craven. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

“I don’t think I’ve had both eyes working at the same time since I was about nine and if I could drive it would make a massive difference – people take these things for granted.”

But Mrs Craven, who has a seven-year-old son named George, spent 12 months on the transplant waiting list for the operation amid a lack of corneal donors.

In total 51 individuals gave their corneas or other tissue donations at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust in 2015/16 but eyes are thought to be an area many choose not to donate.

Having been through some tough times, Mrs Craven hopes her story will encourage people to sign the register.

She said: “There was a time in 2012 where I really was worried I was going to go blind – my vision was terrible, it wasn’t a good time.

“I’ve got a son and I was thinking at the time, ‘I’m not going to be able to see him grow up’.

“People seem more reluctant to donate their corneas than other organs but I would encourage people to consider what a difference tissue donation can make to a person’s life.”

Mrs Craven’s long battle with keratoconus has seen her go under the knife several times to save her sight.

She underwent her first corneal transplant on her right eye in 1994 but the transplant did not ultimately prove a success.

In 2010 she had a successful transplant on her left eye before the issues with her right eye led to her joining the transplant waiting list for the third time in 2015.

Following her most recent operation, her right eye is expected to adjust fully to the transplanted cornea within two years.

“It does make a massive difference,” she added. “When you’re on the list waiting for a transplant for a year you just want to get out there and tell people what a difference it makes.”

The highly successful Be A Hero campaign saw more than 42,000 people across the region sign up to the Organ Donor Register within the first five months of its launch.

Earlier this week it emerged that 48 families in the Yorkshire region consented to organ donation last year following the death of a relative.

As part of Transplant Awareness Week, people are being asked to sign up on the first ever Be A Hero day on Friday.

To sign the NHS Organ Donor Register visit leedsth.nhs.uk/be-a-hero or call 0300 1232323 and reference the Yorkshire ‘Be a Hero’ campaign.

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