As part of Organ Donation Week (September 20-26), Rosie Harris tells her story about why she signed up to Saint Francis Hospice’s cornea donation programme.

I was a volunteer therapist at Saint Francis Hospice for 17 years. I loved it. I was part of a small team and we were able to give different treatments such as reiki, reflexology and massage.

I would help people to ease their stress and pain and they used to really open up to me.

I was still volunteering when my mum Rose Kean was cared for on the ward. But I stopped volunteering when she passed away in 2017.

In September last year, I was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. I was referred to the hospice as I knew I could get the support I needed.

In February, I was admitted to the ward for symptom control and pain relief. It made a 100 per cent difference. It gave me time to reflect. Time to jump off the bus and be present.

Barking and Dagenham Post: Rosie Harris was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer last SeptemberRosie Harris was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer last September (Image: St Francis Hospice)

While I was on the ward, the consultant spoke to me about the hospice’s cornea donation programme.

My own experience of cornea donation was through my sister-in-law Christine who suffered a burn to both of her eyes because the contact lens fluid she used was contaminated.

I really felt everything had come together and it was meant to be.

She was advised to attend Moorfields Eye Hospital in London where she received her full treatment over several weeks. She gradually had light at the end of the tunnel, sight-wise, although to our standards very little.

But time and medication soon gave her the hope of sight, which made us all cry with delight, and full appreciation to the person who gave her this gift.

Then nine years ago, Christie needed a cataract operation. Back then it was extremely rare for this procedure to be carried out on a cornea transplant and specialists came from all over the world to the training hospital in Glasgow where the operation was carried out.

She told me it was like looking through stained glass and once the cataract was taken away, it was absolutely clear.

I think it is lovely that you can leave something of you behind and it is going to make such a difference to someone else’s life.

  • For more information, call NHS Organ Donation on 0800 432 0559. Or for Saint Francis Hospice, call Louise Vandermark, PA to the medical team, on 01708 753319 ext. 2204.