Thomas’ Legacy Lives on Through the Gift of Sight and Research

Thomas’ Legacy Lives on Through the Gift of Sight and Research

“To know Tommy, he preferred Thomas, was to know someone who was helpful, respectful, loyal, and enjoyed spending time with his family, friends, and his dog. Thomas was happiest working with his hands and going hiking, camping, and riding his motorcycle,” says his mother Charlotte.

Thomas had made the decision to join the organ, eye and tissue donor registry. “I didn’t know until after the accident that he was an organ donor, but I wasn’t surprised,” says Charlotte. “Through his cornea donations, his legacy in helping others continues so that he could keep on giving to others.  He didn’t know a stranger; he was that kind. Because Tommy’s corneas were separately donated, he was able to be doubly generous.”

 

Thomas & his mother Charlotte

Thomas & his brother Colt in Colorado

Thomas 2018

“To know Tommy, he preferred Thomas, was to know someone who was helpful, respectful, loyal, and enjoyed spending time with his family, friends, and his dog. Thomas was happiest working with his hands and going hiking, camping, and riding his motorcycle,” says his mother Charlotte.

Thomas had made the decision to join the organ, eye and tissue donor registry. “I didn’t know until after the accident that he was an organ donor, but I wasn’t surprised,” says Charlotte. “Through his cornea donations, his legacy in helping others continues so that he could keep on giving to others.  He didn’t know a stranger; he was that kind. Because Tommy’s corneas were separately donated, he was able to be doubly generous.”

His left cornea helped restore the eyesight of a cornea transplant recipient and his right cornea went to a research facility in order to help discover the cause, and hopefully a cure, for a genetic eye disease called PPCD (Polymorphous Corneal Dystrophy).

Charlotte took part in Saving Sight’s correspondence program to say thank you to his recipients and to share about Tommy.

“I reached out to Tommy’s left cornea recipient to build a connection. I wanted to know who had been blessed with the gift of sight because of my oldest son’s generosity. The recipient happily replied. And we began to learn – I learned about the recipient as a person and the recipient was learning about Thomas as a person. It has been very rewarding for me.”

She also chose to reach out to the researcher who received Thomas’ right cornea tissue. “Because one of Tommy’s corneas went to a research facility, I wanted to make sure the scientists were making the most of their precious and life-giving donation. Eye research is important to me because it impacts the future.  If PPCD (Polymorphous Corneal Dystrophy) can come even one step closer to being cured, then it’s worth the effort. If one person doesn’t have to worry about possibly going blind, then eye, tissue, and organ donation are worth giving.”

As a donor family, Charlotte has found comfort in supporting donation and in Thomas’ legacy living on. “As a donor family, donation is a way to give back, the ultimate in paying it forward. Finding out that my oldest son wanted to give of his self after he was gone, made me even more proud to be Thomas’ mom.  Because I honored my son’s wish, he lives on – twice. I am comforted that Thomas’ donation benefited a recipient to see clearly again and research is actively exploring a cure for PPCD.”

“Thomas made a conscious decision to give of his self beyond his last breath. And I could not be more proud of him for his ever continuing gift of sight. Thomas, my oldest son, had the most deep blue eyes that continue to see even though Thomas cannot.”

Joining the Organ Donor Registry

You can join the national organ, eye and tissue donor registry at registerme.org.  “I have been considering becoming an organ donor.  Even though I wear glasses, I have been advised that I could still give the gift of sight to someone else,” says Charlotte.

Cheryl Shares Her Brother’s Legacy as an Eye Donor

Cheryl Shares Her Brother’s Legacy as an Eye Donor

April is National Donate Life Month, a time to raise awareness about the importance of organ, eye and tissue donation and to honor and celebrate those who have saved lives through the gift of donation.

I’m Nicole Flood, Communications Coordinator with Saving Sight, a nonprofit eye bank with a mission to change lives by saving sight.

Today, we’re honored to talk with Cheryl to learn more about her connection to organ, eye and tissue donation and her brother’s lasting legacy as an eye donor.

 

(L-R): Cheryl and Scot on a Hawaiian adventure a year after her transplant; Cheryl and Scot’s daughter and a Donate Life event; Scot with is daughter.

Hi Cheryl, thank you for taking the time to talk with me today and share your story with Saving Sight. Your brother Scot recently passed on the gift of sight as an eye donor, but he also was a living kidney donor to you many years ago.

Can you tell me a little bit about Scot – What was he like and what were some of his favorite activities?

Cheryl: Sure, so Scot was my brother and the words that we say to best describe Scot would be he was funny, and quirky, and he was just a true friend to so many people. I do think that his greatest passion in life was being a dad. He loved being active and exploring with his daughter and together they would do so many things. They loved to walk around Kansas City, and they’d hop aboard the Kansas City Streetcar and go explore City Market and various places. In asking my niece about what she remembered most about her dad she said that she really loved going to the Chiefs games and the Royals games and just having so much fun at those events. They celebrated the Kansas City World Series win and did that up big and that was just such a joyous time for Scot.

To say a little more, he did find his place really when he joined the Greater Kansas City Writing Project. There he really fell into writing – both writing his personal experiences, and also working to get other to write and share their personal experiences through writing. He was an instructional coach for Kansas City, Missouri school district and his great passion was teaching young kids to write and to really help them find their voice through writing.

Tell me about your family’s decision for Scot to be a donor and his legacy of helping others through donation.

So our experience is a little different because Scot was my kidney donor back in 1997. I’d had kidney disease that was diagnosed when I was a senior in high school and when I was 33 years old it was time that I needed a kidney. Both of my brothers were tested, both were a match, but Scot was the one who really stepped up to be my donor. For him, it was something that he could do to really help me but also just to show his character and just to do something so positive. Kidney donation was such an important thing in our family and donation in general is just so near and dear to our hearts that we wanted Scot’s legacy to include giving life to others even after he had passed.

Scot really has always helped others by giving of himself. If we needed something, we’d call him and he would be right over to help. And so it’s not surprising that he was signed up to be a donor and just really wants to help others. So this was the best way that he could continue to help even after his passing.

How do you think Scot’s legacy lives on as an eye donor?

I imagine another person being able to see because of Scot. Two people have gone from living in darkness to a window being opened where they can see so many things. We don’t know about our recipients, but I’m hoping if there’s a grandchild to be seen someone is seeing their grandchild for the first time. If there’s a beautiful sunset to be seen, I’m hoping that these people are able to enjoy a beautiful sunset. I think the things we see can shape our lives so much and I think through Scot’s donation maybe a person’s life is being changed, perspectives are being made, and just a better quality of life for someone.

As a donor family, why is donation meaningful to you and how have you found comfort in your support of eye donation and sharing Scot’s story?

It just brings us great joy to know that someone is seeing beauty through Scot’s eyes. Scot often wrote of experiencing freedom and, through the gift of his corneal tissue and the transplant that someone was able to receive, I just imagine someone is really living a more authentic live and truly experiencing freedom. I just think that Scot would most definitely want to do this for another person; if he came back and found out we had not donated anything that we could of his then I think he would be very upset with us.

His daughter is a freshman in high school now and I asked her how she felt about us donating his tissue and corneas and such and she says, “oh I’m just so glad that we did that.” Someone went and spoke to them at their high school and that she had signed something for herself to be an organ donor too. She’s just totally on board with it and I think it just really gives her great comfort that his legacy includes giving to others. 

I know you were interested in writing a letter to Scot’s recipient and you learned his recipients were international. What caused you to want to reach out?

You know we just really wanted our recipient to know about Scot, but I just kind of want to really know how life has changed for our recipients. I think that possibly we could see a little bit of Scot through those eyes or just the experiences someone has seen. Hopefully the recipients are living much fuller lives now. Mostly I just want to hear from another how Scot has changed another’s life.

What would you say to others who are considering donation?

I’m such an advocate for organ donation. Scot had donated to me and then my friend ended up being a sister-like match for me, which it just seems like such a miracle that she was such a good match for me. Since my transplant, another friend of mine was an altruistic donor to a man that she did not know. And then she inspired another person to be an altruistic donor. Organ donation just really is so soul-stirring. Of course, being a kidney recipient myself I do encourage others to consider donation. There’s nothing greater than knowing one being is willing to lessen the burden of another through organ donation. When I hear organ donation stories, I know there is such good in the world. It gives our family great pride and comfort to know that our tragedy of losing Scot lessens the pain of another’s suffering. I mean I really feel like the circle of life provides through organ donation. It just seems like it’s the ultimate act of humanity. To me it reinforces my belief that we truly are placed on this earth to help out each other and to lift each other up and to give another what they need in a pretty great way.

I know that April is your 2nd transplant anniversary month, so that’s pretty special with it being Donation Life Month with Donate Life America as well.

Yes, last year my one year transplant my friend – my donor – and I got together with some people who were very supportive of organ donation and just of the road that we travelled. And I tell you that day I just was filled with gratitude and I felt like everything went right that day because I was so filled with gratitude. I felt like even the traffic parted for me, like I was walking on air. If everyone could just have a day where they think ok I am going to just completely be grateful today I think they would see what a difference a day like that can make because that’s a day that I remember so vividly. It will be different this year because I won’t be able to get together with my donor, but I plan on paying it forward by doing some donations – I don’t know where I’m going to donate to yet – but to do some donations to either St. Luke’s Kidney Transplant Clinic just to give back a little bit this year and find where there’s a need and to give myself.

That’s definitely a wonderful sentiment, and just experiencing a day like that of gratitude I think is something we all could appreciate for sure.

I had a pretty good sense of what it was like to be truly grateful that day because it had been a hard journey to get my second transplant. Of course, in looking back on it when everything at the end went so well you think, ‘oh that wasn’t so bad.’ but to be in the midst of it and to be in that place of uncertainty, it really was hard.

That’s wonderful Cheryl, Is there anything else you would like to mention that we haven’t discussed?

You know, like I said, donation can just truly stir your soul. I definitely would encourage people to find out more about organ donation. Now that I’ve learned about Saving Sight, just to learn more about eye donation. You know, I hadn’t really thought about eye donation up to the point before we lost Scot, but what a great way to help another person. Totally life changing, so my message is please donate.

Well thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with us today and for allowing us to honor your brother’s legacy as a donor hero.

Thank you for talking with me.

If you would like to learn more about Saving Sight, or would like to register as a donor, please visit saving-sight.org.

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

“#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.

Maddie’s Gift

Maddie’s Gift

In a time of tragedy, Maddie’s legacy lives on as an eye and tissue donor.

Jim Allmon shares how his stepdaughter’s legacy lives on through eye and tissue donation.

My story or should I say “Our Story” is one that I refuse to let define my family. It is unique and, unfortunately, tragically ironic. On Friday May 5,  2017 there was a prom crash reenactment at the New Berlin High School. I have done several dozen of these reenactments at local high schools in Sangamon County throughout my 16 year career at the Coroner’s Office. I am the Chief Deputy Coroner for the County and it is one of my responsibilities to speak to a lot of the high school kids prior to them attending their prom. We speak about the dangers of distractive driving, drinking and driving and making good decisions the night of their prom. Maddie was a junior at New Berlin High School and witnessed our crash reenactment. Once the crash reenactment is over, all of the students go into the school gym and listen to me speak for a short time about my job. They heard how hard it is for me to talk to the parents of kids lost in car wrecks and how most of them could have been avoided. I remember Maddie raising her hand and asking me a question while we were in the gym and I remember calling Maddie’s name and telling the whole school she was my daughter and I answered her silly question. I left that day thinking that the program went well and that we maybe got our message through to the kids.

On May 6, 2017 Maddie went to her junior prom and then to her after prom at the high school gym. Maddie was a straight A student and a cheerleader. She was popular with the kids and really knew how to light up a room. On May 7, 2017 I was on call and I remember being woke up to the familiar sound of my work cell phone ringing. It was about 8am and it was a beautiful Sunday morning. I answered the phone and I heard the familiar voice of my friend and dispatcher telling me that there had been motor vehicle crash not far from my house. I got up like I always do and got ready to go to the call. It must have only been a few minutes that it took me to get ready. I told my wife that I had a call and I had to go. I told her it was a car wreck and as always, she told me to be careful and she would see me in a little while. I got dressed and headed out the door. As I was walking to my car I heard a scream come from inside my house.  I remember running back up my driveway toward the house and my wife came running towards me. She tossed the phone to me and said “Jimmy, NO”. It was the Illinois State Police and they had went to the residence where Maddie’s car was registered (her dad’s house) and had told Courtney (my wife) that Maddie had been in a bad wreck. I remember taking the phone and asking the State Trooper if it was our Maddie. They said that it was her and she had appeared to have fallen asleep, crossed the center line and hit a semi-truck head on. Maddie had left after-prom when it was over and dropped one of her friends off. Maddie did everything right that night. She was not drinking, she was not on any drugs and she was not on her phone. Maddie had been up for about 30 hours straight and simply fell asleep.

There has not been one single day that goes by since that day that I have not thought about that morning at least several times. Shortly after hearing about the wreck, my wife and I were sitting in our bedroom with our girls trying to figure out how to absorb this unimaginable thing. As I sat there I thought, how can I make this better… I thought that there is no way I can fix this. Then I thought that maybe there is a way, that there could be something good come from this horrific thing. I started making calls and reached out to Saving Sight and Gift of Hope. I remember hoping that there was still some time for Maddie to be able to donate. The process went very smoothly – everyone I talked to seemed very passionate about their job and cognizant of what we were going through. I remember telling my wife that I was extremely happy to be able to make a decision for Maddie that she would have wanted me to make. Shortly after Maddie’s funeral we received a letter from Saving Sight that told us two different people now have the gift of sight because of Maddie. One of the recipients was a 5 year old girl. That letter has become part of Maddie’s story. Maddie’s gift will also touch approximately 67 lives as a tissue donor as well.

Continuing Maddie’s Legacy

We decided to give back to our wonderful community after everyone did so much for us. Our community carried us through that year of firsts and really helped us get where we are today. We had a Golf Outing to raise money for scholarships to be given to a New Berlin High School Senior once a year for the next 5 years. Maddie would have been a senior this year and was on track to graduate with honors. We were able to raise enough money to give away $9,000 in scholarships this year and give away $1,000 a year for the next 5 years to a New Berlin Senior Cheerleader. Thanks to several sponsors (including Saving Sight) we were able to have a great outing that raised a lot of money for these kids.

Left photo: Courtney Allmon; Erica Roberts, Donation Liaison at Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network and Deputy Coroner at Sangamon County Coroner’s Office; Jim Allmon. Right photo: Erica Roberts and Jim Allmon with Maddie’s sisters, Gabby Allmon, Abby Finch, and Isabelle Allmon.

November is Eye Donation Month

November is Eye Donation Month

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! 

 

Eye Donation Month 2020

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

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Live Like Barb—Donor’s Legacy Lives On

“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...

November is Eye Donation Month

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...

Our Sister Vicki

Our Sister Vicki

Vicki’s loving and caring legacy lives on as an eye donor.

Vicki was a loving and caring person who always wished to help others. She loved the outdoors, decorating and design, and reading in her Bible. Most of all, she loved her family and was a proud mother of 3 children, grandmother to 13 and great-grandmother to 9.

For the past ten years, Vicki had been in ill health and, while under hospice care, she made her wishes known she would like to donate her corneas. “As Vicki’s sister, I lost my sight in my right eye after cataract surgery so we hope that Vicki’s gift will help someone else see,” says Cricket, whose given name is Barbara but her little sister Vicki always lovingly called her Cricket. Vicki and Cricket had discussed organ donation, but knew with her health she’d likely be an eye and tissue donor.

“We discussed Saving Sight with hospice and were pleased that she could give sight to others,” says Cricket. “The Saving Sight technician who recovered her corneas was very caring and gentle and so very understanding.”

Just knowing Vicki’s donation will give someone else sight is meaningful to Cricket and the rest of their family. They know her legacy will live on and they will always remember her big, beautiful brown eyes that all of her children and grandchildren inherited.

“Vicki was a minister’s wife and always cared for others,” says Cricket. “She, at times, had little to give but always gave to others what she could so this is her last gift that the Lord let her share.”

You can learn more about joining the organ, eye and tissue donor registry at registerme.org