A 72-year-old who was losing her sight has had her life restored thanks to a double cornea transplant at St Paul’s Eye Unit at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital.
When Mill Quigley heard that she had glaucoma, she thought that her life would be over. “My mum, aunt and grandad all went blind from glaucoma, so I thought that was it – my life is done. I was devastated,” said Mill, on hearing the news.
"The doctor said I won’t go blind, but I didn’t believe him. In truth, I first thought that due to my age, I wasn’t going to be a priority."
For Mill, losing her sight not only meant losing her independence but it was the fear of losing the ability to continue one of her life’s passions: making crafts and teaching at a local crafts group in her hometown of Maghull: “I am a very creative person and my life revolves around crafts. I even have a craft room; my partner Dave halved the garage so I would have a space to crochet and make cards.”
After being referred to St Paul’s, Mill began the process of recovering her sight. Both of her corneal transplants were carried out by St Paul’s corneal specialist, Mr Vito Romano; the first on her right eye last year, and the second transplant to her left eye carried out only three weeks ago.
“The left eye is still cloudy but it will take time. I can already see the benefits, it’s amazing,” said Mill, who commented that her family have noticed complete difference in her confidence.
"My sisters said the difference in me now compared to 18 months ago is amazing. Back then I was so withdrawn, it was terrible. I was really worried about going out and I began to lack confidence."
“Sight-loss is a hidden disability. People would look at me and say there’s nothing wrong with you. For instance there have been times when I’m at the shops and ask where an item is because I can’t see it, and their reply is to point and say ‘there’. It’s a little awkward when you have to ask again ‘where’s there?’ - they sometimes think you are being funny with them.”
To say thank you to the department that gave Mill her life back, she has been busy crocheting blankets to raffle and raise money for research at St Paul’s.
“What I would say to people is make sure you get your eyes tested regularly. People don’t realise how much we take our eyes for granted until they start to fail,” said Mill, who knows how difficult it can be due to her family members in suffering with blindness in the past.
"Without my donated corneas, my life would be very different now. If you haven’t done so, please join the organ donor register and speak to your family about your wishes. I am so grateful to the wonderful team here at St Paul’s and the amazing people that donated their eyes to help others."
What is a cornea transplant?
The cornea is the clear tissue at the front of your eye that lets in light so you can see. A cornea transplant makes a lasting difference to people’s lives and is a relatively quick procedure. Depending on which type of corneal transplant people need, and how much of the cornea needs replacing, the transplant can be completed in under an hour.
We do not currently have enough donated corneas to meet demand in the UK, but almost anyone can donate their corneas. Sign up to the Organ Donor Register and tell your friends and family that you want to be a cornea donor. It is very important that they understand and support your organ and tissue donation decision because your family’s support is needed for donation to go ahead.
For every person who donates their eyes, two people can be helped because only one eye is done at a time. It is also possible for a person who has had a corneal donation to donate their corneas again to someone else when the time comes.