In 2008, Jana, an active high school soccer and volleyball player was diagnosed with a corneal ulcer that become infected with the bacteria pseudomonas. Although the infection cleared, it created a scar over her cornea, stealing both her vision and her freedom.
Because the condition affected Jana’s depth perception, she was forced to give up driving and faced difficulties handling every day activities like pouring a glass of milk or maneuvering her crowded high school hallways. Worst of all, Jana battled unbelievable challenges when she returned to the volleyball court.
“I played my senior year of high school, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard,” said Jana. “Since one of my eyes had been impaired, I had lost the ability to have a sense of depth perception and speed. It came as a shock when my dad threw me a ball, and I couldn’t catch it. I had to relearn everything, all of the basics. I had to learn a whole new game of volleyball. Once a starter on the team, I was now a person who had to relearn how to pass a volleyball.”
Finally, in November 2008, Jana underwent a corneal transplant. While the surgery was a success, her recovery was a roller coaster. “My vision varied from day to day, sometimes very drastically. One day I could see better with my ‘good’ eye, then the next I would be running into things because I didn’t see them. At times it got really frustrating – it was like a coin toss to see how well I would see the following day.”
To protect her vision, Jana was under strict restrictions when it came to lifting and protecting her eyes. She had to insert eye drops four times a day, and her eye became very light sensitive, forcing her to wear dark sunglasses anytime she went outside.
As the year passed, Jana was given more privileges in her recovery and began to see her eyesight slowly return. Now she is back to driving and playing both volleyball and soccer. She is also in college, studying marine biology.
Without her donor and donor family, Jana could not be where she is today. “My cornea donor and family mean everything to me. If they didn’t decide to be an organ donor, there is a chance that I would never be able to see out of my eye again. They flipped my life 180 degrees!”
Because of their gift and the difference it made on her life, Jana is a public supporter of eye, organ and tissue donation. “I make a conscious effort at telling people my story and encouraging them to become organ donors. A lot of people are misinformed about organ donation, and I help them get the right information. Also people think of major organs that need to be donated and don’t realize all the smaller items that can enhance somebody’s life tenfold, like a cornea.”