GLASGOW, Scotland — A 107-year-old woman, who donated her corneas after her death, has become Scotland's oldest organ donor.
And the woman, who was not identified, saved the sight of a younger patient. Lesley Hogan of National Health Service Blood and Transplant revealed that the donation had taken place as she attended the launch of a TV commercial aimed at driving up donor registration rates.
The campaign, titled We Need Everybody, aims to dispel some myths surrounding organ transplantation, including old age being a barrier to donating. Kidneys, the organ most needed worldwide because of kidney failure from diabetes or high blood pressure, have been transplanted from donors in their 80s.
After one year, 93% of corneal transplants are still functioning. At five years, 74% of transplants are still functioning and many will continue for many more years.
"It's the first time we have had a campaign which I think really will appeal to everyone. We are looking at different sectors of society, to represent everyone," Hogan said.
"The message is, 'Don't rule yourself out,' " she said. "Our oldest eye donor was 106."
Guinness World Records does not have a category for oldest organ donor; however, the London-based publisher that keeps track of the superlatives in many areas, did note that Erica Henderson of Westward Ho!, England, donated stem cells in 2008 at age 74 to treat her younger brother, Paul Hallowes of London, who had leukemia. As of 2012, when the North Devon (England) Journal checked up on them, Hallowes was in remission.
Signing an organ donation card will ensure that doctors check so you can be considered for organ and tissue donation no matter how old you are when you die, Hogan said.
"It's a marvelous legacy to save someone's life, and you can do that well into old age," she said. "Older kidneys can work just as well as those from a 20 year old."
Cornea transplants have been carried out for more than a century. The first successful operation was Dec. 7, 1905, in Olomouc, Moravia, now located in the Czech Republic.
They can be donated up to 24 hours after a patient dies. Latest figures show that 540 people are waiting for a transplant in Scotland and 480 people across the United Kingdom died waiting for a transplant last year.
In the United States, more than 120,000 people were awaiting a transplant as of Wednesday, and almost 100,000 need a kidney, according to the federal Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Of the total, more than 77,000 are now on the active waiting list.
On average, 22 people die each day across the USA awaiting a transplant — about 8,000 people a year — and every 10 minutes a new person is added to the waiting list, according to federal information.
In the United Kingdom, The Evening Times is campaigning for an opt-out transplant system, in which individuals are not required to sign the national register if they wish to donate organs after death.
Follow Caroline Wilson on Twitter: @WilsonC75HT