This month, Kristie celebrates her two-year corneal transplant anniversary. “It sure is a blessing and awesome to be able to receive a corneal transplant,” she says. “I learned those who give the gift of sight can sure help others!”
After 5 years of having issues seeing clearly out of her left eye, Kristie was able to receive a corneal transplant on March 19, 2018. Kristie’s vision had deteriorated due to corneal disease.
“It just got worse and worse as time went by to where contacts or glasses would not correct it! I was in surgery for 5 hours,” says Kristie, who was 34 and a stay-at-home mom at the time of her transplant. “After surgery, I was told to wear an eye patch for 1 day, but I ended up needing to wear it for a few days as my eye was sensitive to light. My eye was sore for a few weeks and slightly watery and bloody looking. I could not bend down or lift anything more than 25 pounds for 6 weeks and I had to use 2 eye drops after surgery for a month – an antibiotic drop and a sterile drop.”
Dr. Shachar Tauber was Kristie’s corneal surgeon. “He is a great doctor,” she says. “I would suggest him to anyone who lives in that area. He was very informative to my husband during surgery and after and he even checked on me after surgery and told me to let him know anytime I needed anything. I will go back to him again if I have any more eye problems in the future.”
Kristie adds she also had checkups with her eye doctor, Dr. Hood, every 2 weeks for a month then every month for 11 months to have stitches removed. “I had 16 stitches and they took them out 2 or 3 stitches at a time. I recovered nicely with no complications! Each time I have doctor’s appointment my sight gets better and better!” She’ll continue to have follow-up appointments at least once a year. “There is also a little pin hole black dot on my left iris that will there for the rest of my life, so it helps my eye drain,” she says.
“It’s awesome and I’m thankful,” says Kristie. “I can actually see better than my right eye now which is interesting because my right eye used to be my ‘helping me see eye’.
“Before my transplant, I could not see anything, and everything was foggy in that eye. I couldn’t even see words on the TV. I can now see in a hard contact. I have to wear a contact because I have astigmatism in both eyes. Before I could not wear a contact and see through it.” Kristie adds that she was born hard of hearing and the corneal transplant has helped her so much to see better and navigate her day-to-day life. She and her husband are even going to the gym and exercising together now.
Connecting Through Correspondence
Prior to Kristie’s transplant, she didn’t have a connection to organ, eye and tissue donation. Through the process she says she’s learned a lot. “It sure makes a difference to someone’s life. Without a transplant, some can’t see or live better lives. Some could even die.” Kristie chose to write a thank you letter to her donor family as well. “I just wanted to say thank you for their loved one’s precious gift.”
Because of her experience Kristie has signed up to be a donor on her driver’s license to help others. You can join the donor registry at registerme.org or at your local DMV.
2019 was a record-breaking year, in which Saving Sight provided the gift of sight to even more individuals through the help of our many partners in donation. We’re proud to share our successes with you and humbled to say thank you for your support. We hope that you enjoy hearing the stories of those we’ve served this past year, and that you’ll take the opportunity to share their stories with others, as well.
Julie and Chris have a unique connection to corneal transplantation. Chris as a corneal tissue recipient and Julie as a tissue recovery technician for the Saving Sight eye bank.
“In late July 2016, I had a corneal abrasion on my right eye that sealed to form an ulcer covering my entire cornea,” says Chris. “My ophthalmologist put me on a regiment of fortified Vancomycin and Tobramycin to be taken every hour for two weeks. After two weeks of unrelenting agony and exhaustion, the ulcer had not decreased in size, and it was determined that a transplant had to occur.”
On August 5, Dr. Fraunfelder performed a cornea transplant in Chris’s right eye. “Though there was immediate relief from any pain, it took about two weeks for my eye to be able to be reopened. Since then, I’ve had to have a fitted solid contact lens, and have to take a steroid eye drop every day, but my vision has returned to normal. I’m extremely thankful for the team at University Hospital who helped me through this process and extremely thankful for Dr. Fraunfelder for performing the surgery.”
Chris says his surgery experience was a typical outpatient procedure. “Having the stitches removed a year later was more stressful, and even that was easy,” he says.
“It’s nice not having to wake up every hour on the hour in agony to squirt drugs in my eye. I was essentially bed-ridden during this time, unable to go to work, and underneath quite a bit of stress due to feeling completely shut out,” says Chris.
Julie and Chris on their wedding day.
Chris and his wife Julie are both advocates for organ, eye and tissue donation. “Without this surgery, I’m not sure how my quality of life would be,” says Chris. “As a freshman, I worked with an on-campus organ donation group called Donate Life, raising money and awareness for organ donation. Though I’ve always been an organ donor, this put into perspective exactly how important it is that people are in favor of donating.”
“While working as a recovery technician, I’ve discovered a large part of the public are anti-donation or just not registered donors due to common misconceptions, while many people wait for the opportunity to receive a donation that will drastically change their lives,” adds Julie. “I have always been very pro-donation, but had no personal association before Chris’s transplant.”
Julie has been a recovery technician with Saving Sight since this summer. She applied because she enjoyed the uniqueness of the job and wanted to use her medical experience to make a positive impact in her society/community.
“Each case is so unique; it keeps me growing as an individual and professional continually,” she says. “Being able to make such a difference in people’s lives is fulfilling, but the community that is Saving Sight was so unexpected and has meant so much. I love getting to spend time with my coworkers.”
Chris and Julie are thankful to the many individuals who have chosen to give the gift of sight. “It is very respectful of the donor and their loved ones and can not only save a life but comfort the donor’s loved ones.”
Chris and Julie with their #GivingTuesday #UnSelfie sign.
Saving Sight has joined #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity worldwide.
Occurring this year on December 3rd, #GivingTuesday is held annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday. #GivingTuesday kicks off the holiday giving season, inspiring people to collaborate in improving their local communities and to give back in impactful ways to support the causes they believe in.
Help us change lives by saving sight with a gift on Tuesday, December 3rd and share your giving story on social media with #GivingTuesday
Show others in your social media networks why you support Saving Sight by taking an #UNselfie. The #UNselfie or selfless selfie is a powerful way to show how you choose to give and why that cause is important to you.
“Since I had my cornea transplant my experience has been filled with joy because, for the first time, I do not feel like there’s anything that can hold me back. I feel like I can literally do anything without worrying about my sight,” says Casey. Casey is currently a dual major student and is studying Criminal Justice and Psychology with credentials in International Conflict and Child/Adolescence Development. When Casey was fifteen years old he developed a cataract on his left eye. Without cataract surgery, doctors said he would go blind in that eye. “However doctors did not know whether the surgery would restore my sight,” said Casey. “I had the surgery and waited a few months to see if my sight would be restored.
The surgery was successful in removing the cataract and it didn’t leave me blind, but it made my vision worse. However I never told anyone because I didn’t want to feel like a burden.” A few years later, Casey told his family and eye doctors that his vision had worsened in his left eye. His doctors told him that a cornea transplant was needed to restore his vision. Casey, now twenty-one years old, says his experience with his cornea surgery was a little frightening. “My doctors had given me so much hope, however I was fearful the surgery would not be successful – I was scared to believe.”
Casey’s cornea transplant was a success and his vision is continuing to improve during his healing process. “One of my favorite things to do is play video games and before my transplant I had to literally sit right in front of the television in order to see the game more clearly, but now I do not have to be so close,” says Casey. He can now see things further away as well. He is able to see road signs more clearly and looks forward to his doctors clearing him to drive. Prior to his transplant, he also had to have large font and use a magnifying glass on his phone. Now he enjoys putting his phone in standard mode to view his text messages. “I have learned a lot during this long process. I learned that there are hundreds of people like me out there who need a second chance at living. I know as a recipient I have the power to spread my message to people.
Organizations like Saving Sight are helping to restore sight to those like me who need it.” He adds that when it comes to donating, it’s about saving a life; it’s about restoring someone’s way of living and giving them hope for a better future. Casey chose to write a letter thanking his donor family as well. “After my cornea transplant I was approached about writing a letter to my donor family and I just loved the idea. Because of their family’s sacrifice, I am now able to see clearly and I just wanted to tell them thank you for what they have done for me.” I’m just grateful to my doctors who were amazing and who gave me hope and inspired me and to the donor family who during their tragedy and loss chose to donate. And I’m also very thankful to my family who are awesome people, drove me when I couldn’t drive, and took off work to come to my appointments.”
Casey has designated his decision to join the donor registry at his local DMV. “I love to help people and so on my license I chose to be a donor because I believe if someone is out there who needs it then why not donate?” You can join Casey by registering to be an organ, eye and tissue donor at your local DMV or at registerme.org.
One of Barb’s Favorite Songs Includes the Words: “If I can help somebody as I pass along, If I can cheer somebody with a word or song, If I can show somebody he is travelling wrong, Then my living will not be in vain.”
“My mom was ALWAYS happy! She was everyone’s best friend and she never met a stranger,” says Tamika of her mom, Barb. “She had the most beautiful smile and the most distinctive laugh ever!”
Tamika adds that Barb was an expert shopper and bargain-hunter who loved finding deals on clothes and shoes, but especially loved purchasing home decor. “She took pride in her decorating skills, and loved searching magazines for the latest in interior design. She loved cooking and enjoyed entertaining friends at her home, and was also an avid reader. She would read a book a day! Above all else, she loved spending time with her family – especially her grandchildren. She was definitely their biggest fan.”
When Barb passed away, she was able to give the gift of sight to others as an eye donor. “My mom made the choice to become an organ donor through the DMV and encouraged me to do the same,” says Tamika. “That’s the type of person she was…always a giver. She impacted so many people – her funeral services were attended by over 400 people!”
Tamika chose to write to her mother’s recipient through Saving Sight’s Correspondence Program because she felt it was important to make that connection with her recipient. “I wanted them to know more about their donor, and I wanted to learn more about them as well. It’s mind-blowing to know that there’s a part of her that lives on in someone else!”
“I’d like to believe that someone’s life has been enhanced because of my mom’s donation. I hope that they know that by receiving any part of her, they are connected to a brilliant, strong, loving, faith-filled person.”
“#LiveLikeBarb was something that I came up with right after my mom passed away,” says Tamika. “So many people spoke about how they aspired to be like her or how they admired the type of person she was. That hashtag is a small reminder that we should all strive to live the way she did. Even while living with Congestive Heart Fail-ure, she never allowed her health to slow her down. She always had joy, was always quick to forgive, she never complained, and she lived a life of gratitude. Who wouldn’t want to Live Like Barb? The buttons are just a tangible reminder of that – I usually keep several on hand at all times because I’m always running into a classmate of hers, a for-mer co-worker…even her favorite cashier at JCPenney asked for one!”
“In honor of my mom’s birthday, I got Live Like Barb tattooed on my shoulder…I’m sure she was somewhere rolling her eyes about that!”
“I made a promise that my mom would be famous – that her name and legacy would live forever. I don’t ever want her story to be solely about me and my journey without her…my goal is to have her life story impact others in a way that helps them to live their lives in a more meaningful way.”
Joining the Donor Registry
For those considering joining the organ, eye and tissue donor registry, Tamika says: “The most important thing that we can do while we’re here on earth is to be a blessing to someone. That’s how you leave a legacy, by ensuring that someone else has a second chance at life through the generosity of organ donation. It’s a chance to be a hero.” You can join the donor registry at your local DMV or at www.registerme.org.