Thursday, 19 February 2015


Guest blog by Janis Tunaley, Wellingore WI

Both my parents were organ donors - and one of them an organ recipient - and I wanted to share their stories in the hope that it would both reassure and encourage people to become donors.

My father, an engineer by profession, suffered sight problems in his early 30s.  Just one year after getting married, he was told he had corneal dystrophy, that the condition was genetic and that, not only would he go blind, but he should seriously consider not having children.  You can imagine the shattering impact this had on both him and my mother both in terms of his professional career and their hopes for family life.  Nevertheless, by dint of a great deal of research and much visiting of consultants, he was eventually seen by Benjamin Rycroft (later knighted for his expertise in eye surgery), who pioneered corneal graft operations.  This obviously depended on healthy corneas being donated when people passed away.  My father was given back his sight - in both eyes over some years - as a result.  Consequently, and unsurprisingly, both he and my mother were great advocates of organ donation.

When my mother passed away, she stipulated that she wanted her eyes donated - her contribution in gratitude for my father's sight.  This was done as she wished.  On the morning of her funeral we received a letter telling us that two people had benefited from her gift.  This was a wonderful thing to hear as we bid her farewell - and we know that her eyes are still looking out somewhere in this world!

My father had by this time been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.  As progress was made in treating this wicked disease, a "brain bank" was initiated in London.  Its purpose was to provide brains for research purposes to try and find both the cause and, consequently, a way of treating or even curing Parkinson's.  Both healthy and diseased brains were sought.  My father immediately signed up, stating that even though he could not be helped himself, he wanted, in some way, to help others - as he himself had been helped all those years ago.  When he passed away, his brain was harvested and it is of great comfort to both my sister and me that his wish was granted.  Both she and I are registered as brain donors.

For me, this was something I had been brought up with, but it's not always easy to tackle the subject with loved ones who are less familiar - and perhaps more than a little anxious - with the subject.  It took several conversations with my husband to achieve an understanding and real acceptance of why I wanted this to happen.  There is worry that donation will in some way diminish or damage the person who has passed away.  I can categorically state that this is in no way true.  I saw my mother before her funeral and she had been beautifully looked after - there was no way of knowing she had given her precious eyes.

Equally, I cannot describe in words the tremendous respect and gratitude that is given for the gift of vital organs.  The ability to give those gifts is a truly precious thing and something that everyone should consider.  I am so proud of both my parents for making the commitment to donate for the good of others and hope that when my time comes anything that is of any good at all will be equally well used.

For more information about the WI Time to Talk campaign, please see the WI website:

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