Eye Donation with NHSBT

The first full week of the year and five day week for some time seemed to simultaneously go fast and slow if such a thing is possible. Slow in that, by the time Friday evening rolled around, I was physically and mentally completely exhausted. I couldn’t pull my brain together to write this yesterday and normally I can get this done easily! It went fast in that so much happened it feels a bit like a blur.

The capacity issues of previous weeks seem to be becoming less of a problem (I really hope I haven’t spoken too soon on that front) and we caught up on all the the post-mortems that were required as of Friday. This is great because next Wednesday the hospital is having an inspection by the Human Tissue Authority (HTA). Next week I will go into what this means and let you know how it went!

On Thursday I had a chance to watch an eye donation from a patient who had donated what looked like organs, tissue and eyes to the donation system. This was brilliant and without being too gross (I’ll try!) I’d like to explain how this process went.


The woman who worked for NHSBT (NHS Blood and Transplant) rang the bell at the mortuary like all visitors do and identified herself. I got her to sign in and asked politely if I could watch her do what she does- she seemed more than happy for me to watch and was very friendly! Together we identified the patient who was donating, it’s important two people check together the wristbands of the individual to ensure the correct person is donating, like with any process in the mortuary and the individual is unable to identify themselves.

She then put on the protective equipment for herself and the process (hairnet, mask, gloves, apron etc.) and laid out all of her tools, paperwork and other bits to take his eyes. First she filled out some paperwork, then asked me to grab her a sharps bin and a bag for her waste.

She started by checking the individual over for signs of infection or any reasons why he should not donate. This was all clear and good to go. She then laid out a sheet over his face and cleaned his eyes of all debris. There are connective tissues and four muscles which hold your eye in its socket, plus the optic nerve at the back of the eye. I still find this incredible considering I always thought your eyes could pop out if you sneezed with your eyes open. Apparently not. To remove the eye all of these tissues and nerve need to be disconnected. I won’t go into detail how! Once this is done, the eye is placed in a holder which is placed into a pot. She kept them on the left and right side of his body in order to know which side they came from. She then cleaned him up, placed cotton wool and a cap into the socket and reconstructed his eyes. They seriously looked like nothing had happened with his eyes closed. You would never know there weren’t eyes under his eyelids!

The eyes themselves can be kept for up to four weeks by the service awaiting use, but the woman assured me that they are rarely there for long once they have been tested to make sure they are okay for transplant. Eyes must be taken within 24 hours of death so they are okay for transplant too. The teams taking Tissue for transplant work around the clock to take these donations within the time limits and keep it running. I think it’s incredible and so should you because one day you might require a transplant such as this.

Other things this week, I started helping out in the post mortem took a lot more. My stitching is getting better, smoother and faster. I also encountered my first problem with this and overcame it quite well (think skin that doesn’t stitch back together so well…) so I’m proud of that!

Very important and busy week next week as mentioned previously. I’ll be sure to post about this next time. Hope you all have a great weekend and enjoyed this post.

MG x

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