November is Eye Donation Month! Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA) uses the month as an opportunity to educate the public about the importance of registering to be a donor, about cornea donation and transplantation, and to acknowledge the work of their partner eye banks. As a member eye bank, Saving Sight will be taking part in celebrating Eye Donation Month and the theme of The Power of You. The campaign demonstrates the “power” that individuals have in building hope, restoring sight and changing lives, including healthcare professionals and partners, researchers, eye bank staff, corneal surgeons, and recipients and donor families.
We will be sharing several cornea recipient and donor family stories in November. Be sure to follow Saving Sight on Facebook and on our website during November for #EyeDonationMonth. Thank you for helping us change lives by saving sight!
Staff at Capital Region Medical Center dedicated a rose in honor of their donors on the 14th Annual Donate Life Rose Parade Float.
Each year, Saving Sight works to coordinate the eye donation process for donors in partner hospitals across Missouri, Kansas and central Illinois. Saving Sight partner relations coordinators meet with the partner hospitals as the year comes to a close to honor the gifts of their donors on a national stage during the annual Tournament of Roses – Rose Parade.
“This year our PRCs met with an administrator at 26 of our partner hospitals and partnered with Midwest Transplant Network to meet with 14 shared hospital partners. The number of hospital administrators who participate in this program is growing each year. It’s a great way for Saving Sight to promote in the local communities the culture of donation within these hospitals,” said Michala Stoker, Director of Partner Relations.
Saving Sight asked each partner hospital to dedicate a rose in honor of the hospital’s eye donors that was carried on the annual Donate Life Rose Parade Float. Each signed a vial with a personal message from the hospital in memory of the hospital’s eye donors. This year, the vial carried a white Akito rose on the Rose Parade Float to honor the donors and help spread the simple, life-giving message that eye, organ and tissue donation heals and saves lives.
Memorial Medical Center dedicated a rose to honor their donors on the 14th Annual Donate Life Rose Parade Float.
“It’s an incredible gift these donors make through eye donation. They forever change the lives of corneal transplant recipients,” said Saving Sight Chief Executive Officer Tony Bavuso. “We’re excited to work with our partner hospitals to honor that gift by dedicating a rose that will be seen around the world as part of this year’s Tournament of Roses Parade and serve as a testament to the healing power of the gift of sight.”
The 128th Annual Tournament of Roses – Rose Parade was broadcast around the world from Pasadena, California on January 2, 2017. The 14th Annual Donate Life Rose Parade Float won the Theme Trophy for their Teammates in Life float that honored the heroes who helped others through the gift of sight and the gift of life.
Across our service region, Saving Sight recovered, processed and placed 3,016 corneas for transplant in 2015. Because of the compassion of donors, families and staff at partner hospitals, Saving Sight changed the lives of an average of eight people every day through the gift of sight.
Over 48,000 corneal transplants took place across the country to restore sight for those in need last year and more than 15,000 Americans gave life through organ donation. Still, today more than 120,000 men, women children await lifesaving organ transplants in the United States. If you haven’t registered as an eye, organ and tissue donor yet, you can make a difference by choosing to give life today at registerme.org.
For Danielle, knowing her 10-year-old son Devon could help others through being an eye donor gives her a sense of peace.
Losing a child is heartbreaking. For Danielle, knowing her 10-year-old son Devon could help others through being an eye donor gives her a sense of peace. “Devon is really missed so much, but I know that he is happy he was able to help someone else,” said Danielle.
Devon was born with Goldenhar Syndrome. Though his case had nothing to do with his heart, he was born with fluid on his brain, extra tissue on his eye and skin tags that were removed at birth. Devon also underwent surgery at the age of 2 and had 2 rods and 6 screws placed in his back.
Despite his health concerns and diagnosis of ADHD & ADD severe in first grade, Danielle said he was so smart, energetic and always smiling.
“He could make everybody smile; if you were having a bad day, he knew how to make you laugh,” said Danielle.
She added that Devon was a good big brother and loved his little sister so much. He also enjoyed playing with his cars, going to demolition derbies and being around others. Danielle said his favorite subject in school was writing – reading his writing today still touches her heart and brings a tear to her eyes.
“Even with the disability he had, it didn’t stop him from being the little kid that he was.” They lost Devon the summer before he was to begin 5th grade. “His teachers loved him so much – he could drive them nuts, but he was just the light of the room and could make them smile.”
When Danielle’s family lost Devon in 2015, they were approached by Saving Sight about eye donation. At the time, Danielle wasn’t familiar with donation and had limited knowledge about the donor registry. “When everything happened, I got the phone call to ask if we could donate,” said Danielle. “At that moment, it wasn’t quite the right time and I asked them to call back the next day. They did which was amazing and they respected me.”
Danielle wasn’t sure Devon could be a donor with his disabilities but was happy he was able to be an eye donor. “Devon would have wanted to help others because he had a situation with his eyes and, I think deep down, he will always know he was able to help somebody,” said Danielle.
Danielle recommends discussing donation to any family dealing with end of life care. “When we got a letter from California that was an amazing feeling that we were able to help somebody else that had a problem with their eyesight,” said Danielle, “It means a lot to somebody on the other end and I know it hurts because you’re loved one is gone but, in the end, it makes a difference being able to help others.”
If you are a cornea transplant recipient or donor family and would like to share your experience like Danielle has, please send us a note through our Contact page. To learn more about writing your donor family or your loved one’s recipient, please read our Correspondencepage or contact Saving Sight at 800-753-2265.
Aaron celebrated his 40th birthday shortly before he passed away.
A quiet and good-hearted man, Aaron loved spending time with his family, including his two children and grandchild. He also loved connecting with nature. Some of his favorite moments were spent on the river fishing and hunting for arrow heads with his son. Aaron was a talented whittler and would come up with the most unique ideas and designs to whittle into pieces of wood with his razor-knife.
Aaron was raised on a farm and worked in construction, following in father’s footsteps. Aaron had just celebrated his 40th birthday when he passed away.
“He was far from perfect, but he was a loving, kind and generous person,” Aaron’s mother, Debbie, said. “He was the type of man who would give the shirt off his back to help someone else and he continued to give in death.”
Aaron had registered as an eye, organ and tissue donor at his local Department of Motor Vehicles office and carried a donor symbol on his license. After a motor vehicle accident claimed his life, Aaron was able to give the gift of sight through eye donation.
“I did not know he was a donor, but he was always helping others.” Debbie added Aaron knew she and his dad were registered organ donors.
Aaron was an avid outdoorsman who loved being on the water.
“Aaron being able to help others is what has helped me,” said Debbie. She and her family find comfort in Aaron’s legacy living on through the gift of sight. Through Saving Sight’s correspondence program, Debbie chose to write to Aaron’s cornea recipient because she wanted them to know what kind of person he was.
“The woman who received his corneas – it couldn’t have went to a better person,” said Debbie. From correspondence, Debbie learned the recipient of one of Aaron’s corneas needed her vision restored to continue caring for her son who had special needs. “I was really glad to hear from her. When I finally got the letter, it was right around Aaron’s birthday.”
Debbie encourages others to join the registry, like her son Aaron. “I think it’s one of the greatest things anyone can do,” said Debbie. “When we leave this world, we don’t need this body anymore so why not donate to help others; it’s just a blessing.”
You too can join the millions of Americans like Aaron who signed up for the donor registry by registering at DonateLifeAmerica or at your local Department of Motor Vehicles office. And be sure to share your decision to be an eye, organ and tissue donor with your family and friends.
Gentry came into the world completely blind. Born with congenital glaucoma and a protruding left cornea, Gentry had her first eye surgery when she was just two days old and received her first cornea transplant at one month to reconstruct her left eye and correct corneal cloudiness. While glaucoma is an eye disease commonly associated with the elderly, the reality is glaucoma affects people of all ages. Today at the age of four, she’s overcome more than 20 separate surgeries and five cornea transplants, including a prosthesis.
Gentry’s snowman artwork is featured on Saving Sight’s 2015 holiday card.
In spite of every obstacle she’s faced, Gentry is a happy pre-kindergartner, enjoying friends and her first year of school. That Gentry dances, plays, and reads just like other kids her age, is an achievement of modern medicine and her parents’ enduring support. As Gentry’s mother Becky put it, “It’s amazing where we started at compared to what Gentry’s able to do now.”
Though she had never encountered donation or transplantation before her daughter’s birth, Becky knows how important the the gift of sight is to people of all ages. Recently, her own family was directly impacted through the tragic death of a cousin, and because of Gentry’s experience, eye, organ, and tissue donation were important to the family’s legacy.
Our programs are preventing vision loss and changing the lives of many like Gentry, but we can’t achieve that mission without your support. This holiday season, please consider making a special, meaningful gift. By supporting Saving Sight, you help rescue thousands from the heartbreak of vision loss.