A 17-YEAR–OLD CBeebies star has thanked a cornea transplant for allowing her to see light again.
Angharad Rhodes, from Anglesey, was born with cataracts in both eyes and a condition called microphthalmia, in which one or both eyes are abnormally small.
At 13-years-old and after years of extensive testing, she was diagnosed with a rare condition called Oculofaciocardiodental syndrome (OFCD) which affected her eyes, facial features, heart and teeth.
Her diagnosis meant that she was severely sight impaired and had high pressure building in her eye. If this pressure continued to increase, over time Angharad would no longer be able to see any light and would enter a world of darkness.
Lynda Rhodes, Angharad’s mum, said they have “been through some tough times” when her daughter was in and out of hospital.
“During each hospital visit, Angharad would worry and my heart would be in my mouth the entire time,” said Mrs Rhodes.
“The doctors decided that in order for Angharad to be able to keep her light perception, they would need to insert a mechanical valve in her eye to lower the pressure. This operation would mean that a cornea donation was needed.
“The concept of organ donation was very new to us, it had never crossed our minds and came as a bit of a shock. We carried out a lot of research into organ donation and straight away our hearts went out to the families of the donors.
“After numerous discussions, Angharad understood that organ donation involved someone passing away in order to help her and decided to go ahead with the operation.”
In April 2016, Angharad and Mrs Rhodes were told there was a donor available and the procedure would take place in two weeks. This notice period helped them both prepare for such a significant operation.
Following the operation, Angharad’s eyes were swollen and remained closed, therefore it was unclear whether the operation had been successful.
Mrs Rhodes said: “We held our breaths the week after Angharad’s operation. There was a sense of the unknown and we just had to wait and see if the donation had worked.
“After a couple of days, Angharad took a light sensitivity test and discovered that the operation had been a success. We were absolutely over the moon.”
Since the operation Angharad has enjoyed filming a third series of Cbeebies’ Melody in which she plays Melody, a character with a big imagination who is partially sighted.
Angharad now hopes to inspire others who may suffer with a loss of sight. As an advocate for the ‘Live Life Give Life’ charity, she carries out extensive work spreading awareness for organ donation. In support of Organ Donation Week, Angharad made Rocky Roads with mum Lynda on her YouTube channel: AngharadsLife.
Mrs Rhodes said: “As a family we are so thankful that someone chose to donate their corneas. Without them, Angharad’s world would have been plunged into darkness. They gave our daughter the gift of light and for that words cannot express how thankful we are.
“There is such stigma around eyes in general. Many people are very squeamish when talking about eyes. With that, the topic of cornea donation makes people uncomfortable, however we need to get past this. It’s such a shame that this is putting people off donating. I know some are squeamish, but cornea donation is about giving the gift of sight.
“I hope Angharad’s story shows people how important cornea donation is, almost anyone can donate their corneas. Currently there are not enough donated to meet demand in the UK.”
If you want to donate your organs, it’s important to make a decision, register it by calling 0300 123 23 23 or visiting https://beta.gov.wales/organ-donation-campaign and have the organ donation chat with your loved ones.