08/11/07 Different Eyes


A Man once said by consultants to have the world’s most famous eyes is recovering from his eighth corneal transplant.
Accountant Chris Rooke (37) was born with the most severe form of posterior polymorphous corneal dystrophy – a rare genetic condition causing blindness – medics have witnessed.

While he has never been able to see out of his right eye, a pioneering corneal transplant in 1973 to save the sight in his left is still featured in medical textbooks.

 Now Mr Rooke, of Fiskerton, says he is backing a proposal being considered by the Government that will see everyone put on an organ donor register unless they opt out.

Currently organs can only be taken from the bodies of people who have actively chosen to be donors and carry donor cards.

The country’s shortage of donors is impacting on the lives of people such as Mr Rooke who has paid a total of £15,000 for private corneal transplants to avoid waiting for donor corneas on the NHS.

On one occasion and after being almost completely blind for four years in 2003, he spent £5,000 on a cornea from a donor in America.

“I was really lucky with my first transplant as it lasted 25 years,” he said.

“But my vision became cloudy and I have been plagued ever since with new corneas failing after 14 or 15 months.

“I fear for people who cannot pay for a transplant but sight is the most important sense you have and more important to invest in than nice cars or holidays.

“If I lose my sight I cannot do anything – I can’t drive or work and worse of all I wouldn’t be able to see my first baby due in March grow up.”

Mr Rooke is appealing for people to carry donor cards while the government considers the idea of presumed consent for organ donation. With the best will in the world your body is of no use to you when you’re dead,” he said. “But it can help other people.

“I have met people who have donor cards but don’t want their eyes touched “I have heard others say they want to see where they are going when they die. I do think corneas get the least publicity as you normally hear about hearts, lungs and kidneys.”