One Couple Shares Their Unique Connection to Eye Donation

One Couple Shares Their Unique Connection to Eye Donation

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.



Black Friday. Cyber Monday.

December 3, 2019

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 why you support Saving Sight on #GivingTuesday with a #UNselfie

Share an #UNselfie & Inspire Others to Give

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.

Download and print the #GivingTuesday sign and write why you support Saving Sight. You can also mark it on your phone or tablet. Then, take a photo with the sign and post to your social media networks. Tag @WeSaveSight on Facebook or @WeSaveSight on Twitter, use the hashtags #UNselfie and #GivingTuesday and link to our giving page



Casey’s Story – Twenty-One-Year-Old College Student Regains Sight

Casey’s Story – Twenty-One-Year-Old College Student Regains Sight

“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

Live Like Barb—Donor’s Legacy Lives On

Live Like Barb—Donor’s Legacy Lives On

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

Support Saving Sight and Help Honor Eye Donors

Support Saving Sight and Help Honor Eye Donors

Last year, 2,559 heroes gave the gift of sight through eye donation with Saving Sight. Help us honor these donors on this year’s Donate Life Rose Parade Float.

Saving Sight has launched a t-shirt fundraiser with Bonfire, a shirt platform that works with nonprofit organizations. We will be selling three designs, available in July, August and September respectively. The proceeds from the sale of these shirts will be used to purchase roses in memory of our donors.

Each year, Donate Life’s Rose Parade float features riders representing transplant recipients; living donor walkers; and dozens of memorial “floragraph” portraits of deceased organ, eye and tissue donors. The deck of the float is also covered with thousands of dedicated roses with vials carrying personal messages of love, hope and remembrance.

To purchase a shirt, visit Shirts available for purchase July 1-21st, August 1-21st, and Sept 1-21st. At the conclusion of each campaign, the shirts will be shipped directly to the purchaser the last week of each month.


Retired Judge Gary Schmidt Shares His Story as a Corneal Transplant Recipient

Retired Judge Gary Schmidt Shares His Story as a Corneal Transplant Recipient

April was National Donate Life month and Saving Sight took part in numerous celebrations in Missouri, Kansas and Illinois to help spread awareness about the impact of organ, eye and tissue donation.

On April 9th, Saving Sight was honored to take part in Donor Family Recognition Day at the Missouri State Capitol. During the event, donor families were honored by the Governor and were also introduced on the House floor. We also had the great privilege of having one of our cornea recipients, retired Judge Gary Schmidt, speak at the event to share about the impact corneal transplantation has had on his life.

Schmidt finds it very meaningful to speak at events like this. “It gives me an opportunity to express my gratitude to the families of donors of all types. Donors have done so much to improve the lives, perhaps save the lives of others. It is a privilege to say ‘Thank you!’ I’m not able to find the words to adequately express the debt of gratitude we owe them.”


Watch Retired Judge Gary Schmidt Share His Story at Donor Family Recognition Day at the Missouri State Capitol

“Donors have done so much to improve the lives, perhaps save the lives of others. It is a privilege to say ‘Thank you!’ I’m not able to find the words to adequately express the debt of gratitude we owe them.”

Gary Schmidt, Cornea Recipient

After the event, Judge Schmidt followed up with Saving Sight to discuss his experience in further detail:

Saving Sight: Judge Schmidt, can you tell us about your experience with corneal transplantation?

Schmidt: What I remember most is the fear. When my corneas both went bad at the same time, I was almost completely blind. It happened in a few short days, and I wasn’t prepared for the possibility I might be sightless for the rest of my life.

Saving Sight: What caused you to require a transplant?

Schmidt: My corneas both failed from a combination of diabetes, age and bad genes.

Saving Sight: What was your transplant experience like?

Schmidt: Unfortunately, it didn’t go smoothly. Dr. Leutkemeyer elected to do my left eye first and, after being placed, the graft moved out of position. It took several trips to surgery before the graft took and held. The right eye went much more smoothly, and I was seeing quite well within a few days.

Saving Sight: Did you have a connection to organ, eye and tissue donation prior to your transplant?

Schmidt: When I was first out of law school, an old high school classmate took on a project of signing up many bone marrow transplant donors. I was one of her targets. The idea didn’t take much selling; registering as a bone marrow donor might save a life. So I registered, and got an immediate preliminary match. Unfortunately further testing showed we were not compatible. Ultimately, several of my high school classmates did indeed donate bone marrow.

Saving Sight: What’s something you learned about the donation process through your experience?

Schmidt: I am constantly amazed at the things that may be donated, both while the donor is living and postmortem.

Saving Sight: What is something you’d like others to know about the process?

Schmidt: I would hope that everyone is aware of how much donation can change the world for a person, for a family. In my case, my donor gave me the gift of sight. Some donors are able to save lives.

Saving Sight: What are some things you enjoy to do and are able to do now that your sight is restored?

Schmidt: If I couldn’t see, I’d be a huge burden to my family. The gift of sight gives me independence, and keeps me from being a burden to them. I can now do all the things I enjoy, including going to high school football games and reading. It was always my dream to spend retirement reading all the things I never had time to read when I was working full time.

Saving Sight: What caused you to write to your donor family through our Correspondence Program?

Schmidt: Considering what my donor did for me, how could I not try and express my gratitude for their relative that did so much for me? In my case, I hope they are proud of the very good things their donor was able to accomplish. They should be very proud of him.

Saving Sight: Why is speaking at events like Donor Day at the Capitol meaningful to you as a cornea recipient?

Schmidt: It gives me an opportunity to express my gratitude to families of donors of all types. Donors have done so much to improve lives, perhaps save the lives of others. It is a privilege to say “Thank you!” I’m not able to find the words to adequately express the debt of gratitude we owe them.

Saving Sight: Is there anything else about your experience you would like to mention?

Schmidt: I think it must be incredibly satisfying to work with an agency (Saving Sight) that does so much good. Before my eyes failed I was vaguely aware that someone must be tending to such things. Now I can put smiling faces to some of the people who are doing such incredible work.