As a teacher and artist, Anne was diagnosed with Fuchs’ corneal dystrophy, which, if left untreated, would have blinded her in the left eye. Her vision deteriorated to the extent that she required the transplantation of corneal tissue from a generous eye donor. Today, Anne’s vision is so significantly improved that she can enjoy creating artwork for her friends and acquaintances and remain active in her community as the planning commissioner. Watch the video below to hear her tell her story.
An Artist’s Vision
Thanks to Saving Sight, I am able to see out of my left eye.
Want to give a gift that changes lives by saving sight? You can help people like Anne regain their sight and lead joyful, independent lives by making a donation at the Giving page.
Thanks to a cornea transplant, Anne is able to keep working at her home art studio.
Anne is an artist who resides in Gladstone, Missouri, a municipality in the Kansas City area. Now retired, she focuses on creating artwork for her friends and acquaintances, and she is active in her community as the planning commissioner. In 1980, however, Anne was diagnosed with a hereditary eye disease that causes vision to get worse as an inner layer of the cornea deteriorates. “I went to see my doctor for my yearly exam,” Anne said, “and I was diagnosed with Fuchs’ corneal dystrophy, which, if left untreated, would have blinded me in the left eye.”
For some time, Anne was able to continue her work, both as a teacher and an artist, by keeping routine appointments with her doctor. Together, they could retain her vision by regularly updating the prescription of her glasses. By 2007, however, her doctor finally recommended her to a corneal transplant specialist to fix her vision once and for all. Dr. Tim Cavanaugh of the Cavanaugh Eye Center conducted the operation, replacing the diseased portion of her cornea with corneal tissue donated by a generous donor and their family.
The transplant was a success. “I had to stay still for a day or two after surgery, but my vision in the left eye was 20/30 afterward,” Anne said. “It was a very easy procedure to go through.” Furthermore, the benefits of the surgery have continued for Anne. “I ordered new glasses after the surgery, and I am still wearing those glasses,” she said. “My sight has changed so little in seven years that new lenses are not necessary.”
Today, Anne continues to make art, including creating the cover art for Saving Sight’s 2014 holiday card. She is very thankful for the opportunity the transplant has afforded her, both personally and professionally. “I owe so much to the donor, my doctors, and Saving Sight,” she said. “Thanks to the cornea transplant, I can not only see but also continue as an artist.”
To join the millions of Americans who have signed up for the donor registry, register onlineat DonateLifeAmerica or at your local Department of Motor Vehicles office. And be sure to share your decision with your family and friends.
Susan, from Grandview, MO, is back to quilting and her other favorite hobbies thanks to her cornea donors, her surgeon, and Saving Sight.
“Five or six years ago, when I renewed my driver’s license, I almost failed the vision test. They told me I wouldn’t pass the next time,” said Sue of Grandview, Missouri. “So I decided to see an ophthalmologist for an eye exam before my next driver’s test.” However, Sue’s vision problems persisted. “Then one summer, three years ago, I went outside on a very bright day,” she said. “I saw little shards of sparkles in the air. I couldn’t figure out what it was—it was annoying and only happened in the sunlight.” At her doctor’s recommendation, Sue visited Sabates Eye Center in Leawood where she was diagnosed with Fuchs’ corneal dystrophy,a disease that causes the corneas to deteriorate. “The doctors said I was going blind,” Sue remembered. “That’s scary to hear, but they told me it’s a curable disease.” Approximately a year later in August 2013, with the diagnosis of Fuchs’ dystrophy confirmed, Sue received her first corneal transplant, which replaced the diseased part of her cornea.
Sue has experienced vision problems her whole life. As a child, she suffered from amblyopia (“lazy eye”) and had almost no sight in her left eye. She wore a patch over the stronger eye to help strengthen the weak eye, a common treatment for amblyopia. “I started wearing glasses at six years old, and that’s the first time I saw that things have hard lines,” she said.
After her first transplant surgery, Sue admits to feeling impatient and disappointed with the results. “I didn’t know that it takes time for the cells to grow, plus I didn’t get new glasses until after the second transplant in December,” she said. By February or March, after the second surgery, her sight was improving. “At each checkup my sight was a little better,” she said. “I was able to read small font and see better at a distance. I am seeing things I haven’t seen in years.”
Sue’s vision continued to improve. “I learned I had to be patient and trust my doctor,” she said. “Stay in good communication and develop a good relationship with the doctor. Mine is very good. I trust her skill and knowledge.” But the moment of realization for Sue, when she knew how far her vision had improved, was when she was quilting, one of her favorite pastimes. “I started a landscape quilt for my husband while recovering from the first surgery,” she said. “After the second surgery, I took it up again to work on. I sat down at the sewing machine to change the thread. Just a month before, I had to ask other people to thread the needle for me. Without thinking about what I was doing, I started to thread the needle, and I did it. It took me a moment to realize what I had just done. I was so excited!”
Another of Sue’s hobbies is oil painting. Before the transplant surgeries, everything was dark and slightly fuzzy for her. “My teacher asked me why I paint everything so dark,” Sue said. “I told her, ‘I don’t, that’s the way I see it.’ Now, the colors I see are so brilliant. I realized that not a lot of light was getting into my eyes, so I couldn’t see true colors. In the distance, I could not see tree leaves or birds in the sky. The loss was so gradual I didn’t realize for a long time just how bad my sight had gotten.”
Two miniature quilts Sue gave to Saving Sight as part of her “The Grateful Series.”
With her sight restored, Sue is back to work as a guest service representative at Target and returned to her favorite hobbies: quilting, painting,
reading, gardening, and baking. In fact, she’s currently at work on creating a series of miniature quilts: one for each of her cornea donors’ families, two for Saving Sight, one for her surgeon, Dr. Macaluso, and one for herself. “People have helped me and I wanted to show how grateful I am for their gifts. Now I can continue to enjoy my passion for color through painting and quilting.”
To join the millions of Americans like Suewho signed up for the donor registry, register onlineat DonateLifeAmerica or at your local Department of Motor Vehicles office. And be sure to share your decision with your family and friends.
In April 2013, Saving Sight shared a story about Arnold, a happy-go-lucky man who donated his corneas to give the gift of sight to others. Arnold was a long-haul truck driver from Maine who passed away while in Springfield, Illinois for work, and his wife, Marie, supported his decision to become a donor, even though she was hundreds of miles away. “Following through with his wish to be a donor was never a hesitation in my shock and grief,” she said.
After the donation, Marie corresponded with one of the recipients of Arnold’s corneal tissue and learned a lot from the experience. She had this to share: “[Donation] isn’t just something you do – it’s life-changing for the recipients and the people who are left behind. Science gives us the technology to make these gifts happen, but without people giving so unselfishly, we could not bring about the life-changing results I have witnessed firsthand.”
Recently, Vince Dixon, a family friend of Marie, was touched by the stories of Arnold and other donors. And he decided to honor them and draw attention to the importance of donation by writing an original song, “Heart of a Hero,” which he then posted as a video to YouTube. Arnold is prominently featured in the video, starting at one minute and thirty seconds and at the end. Watch and listen to “Heart of a Hero” below to see the lasting impact Arnold has had as a donor.
Heart of a Hero by Vince Dixon
Watch family friend Vince Dixon’s video tribute to Arnold and other donors featuring his original song, “Heart of a Hero.”
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 www.donatelifekansas.com.
“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!”