After her vision returned following her cornea transplant, Mary was able to grab her camera to capture the images she had missed seeing for years.

At age 42, Mary of Emporia, KS was diagnosed with Fuchs’ dystrophy, a progressive disease in which one’s vision becomes blurred. Like many younger patients who face the disease, Mary wondered how she could juggle her family and busy career as her eyesight deteriorated.

Explained Mary, “It seemed to progress quickly, and I had stopped driving at night, which was so difficult having kids and activities. I no longer felt comfortable doing certain things at work, and I felt panicked (and a little pitiful) that was losing my vision. I even convinced my husband to move into town so that I wouldn’t have to drive home in the dark the 10 miles out that we lived.”

While Mary found ways to adapt her life and her work as a nurse around Fuchs’, a tragic turn of events made simply dealing with her vision loss no longer viable. A few years after her diagnosis, Mary put her own health concerns to the side to help her husband in his fight against cancer, which eventually took his life.

“A few months after he died, I realized my vision had gotten significantly worse, and as the sole parent, I had to be able to drive at night and had to be able to work. It was time to do something!”

In December 2010, Mary received a cornea transplant on her right eye with tissue provided by a donor family. Their gift was especially poignant after Mary’s own loss. “They are my miracle. I know the pain of their loss and am so appreciative that in the midst of their grief, they chose to make a gift that changed my life. It really hit me because my surgery was right before Christmas, and I know how hard the first Christmas is without your loved one, having just experienced that the previous year. I ached for them, and prayed that they might find peace.”

Mary’s transplant was a sight-saving success. Although her recovery required her to lie on her back for 72 hours and she endured some minor pain and irritation, her vision has improved considerably since her surgery – “It’s like having an HDTV in that eye! Everything is so clear and crisp, it’s absolutely amazing!”

Within two days, Mary was able to see the numbers on her alarm clock without glasses, and within two weeks, she no longer saw halos around streetlights as she drove in the dark. Her transplant has given her more confidence in her job and has allowed her to enjoy her favorite activities – reading, gardening, photography, and participating in church activities – in beautiful, brilliant clarity.

Today, Mary encourages her fellow Kansans to consider pledging to give the gift of sight by joining

“We don’t like to think that anything bad could happen to our loved ones or ourselves. The reality is that bad things, tragic things, can happen to good people all the time. Organ and tissue donation is a chance to transform that tragedy into a miracle. How beautiful to think that your last act on earth would be life-saving or changing for another – what a loving legacy!”