Happy Holidays from Saving Sight!

Happy Holidays from Saving Sight!

Happy Holidays from Saving Sight!

Cynthia captured the crisp, winter scene pictured as our 2018 featured holiday artist.

Happy Holidays!

Thanks to our staff, partners, volunteers and supporters of our work in eye donation, more corneal recipients like Cynthia are able to enjoy the twinkling holiday lights and watch the first snowfall of the season. And more donor families are able to find comfort in their loved one’s legacy living on through the gift of sight in 2018.

We wish you a bright holiday season and look forward to our continued work in the new year. Happy Holidays, from all of us at Saving Sight!

About the Artist

Thanks to the generosity of three eye donors, Cynthia was able to correct her vision through the gift of sight. “Prior to the loss of my sight at the age of 20, I was a photographer, so you can see how important my eyes were to me,” she says. Cynthia has Keratoconus and started losing her sight due to the thinning of her cornea that caused blurred vision. “My hope of recovering my eyesight came in the form of eye donors and skilled surgeons and physicians. Words cannot express what kind of hope I was given through the blessings of people I do not know.”

Cynthia’s Story – A Photographer’s Vision

Cynthia’s Story – A Photographer’s Vision

“Prior to the loss of my sight at the age of 20, I was a photographer, so you can see how important my eyes were to me,” Cynthia says.

The vibrant colors of a flower in spring. Seeing a bumblebee buzz and dart through the garden. The crisp outline of a frozen snowflake on the windowpane. All of these sights are just a few of the many beautiful moments Cynthia has captured through her photography. As the progressive and degenerative eye disease Keratoconus began to worsen and blur her vision, Cynthia could no longer see the images she once loved to photograph.

“Prior to the loss of my sight at the age of 20, I was a photographer, so you can see how important my eyes were to me,” Cynthia says. “I have Keratoconus and slowly started to lose my sight due to a thinning of the cornea causing blurred vision. By the age of 20 I had a cane and was considered legally blind in both eyes. My eyes hurt all the time and, as you can imagine, I was scared. However, my hope of recovering my eyesight came in the form of two organ donors and skilled surgeons and physicians. My eye sight was better than 20/20 after the procedures!”

Once her sight was restored, Cynthia began playing with photography to find different ways to show others a glimpse of how she saw the world with Keratoconus. She was able to capture a photo that provides a great visual of what she saw before and after her corneal transplants. It was important to Cynthia to capture this photo to show others the impact cornea donation and transplantation makes in so many lives.

As is sometimes the case with Keratonconus, Cynthia’s condition returned and she underwent a third transplant this year. “Though hard to go through a second time in life, I am now 38 years old and this summer I received yet another cornea transplant!”

“Words cannot express what kind of hope I was given through the blessings of people I do not know! Through the love and kindness I have been shown I return it every day by being as kind and giving as I possibly can be to others. Thus, the lives of those who gave to me keep giving now through me,” she says. “I will spend my life paying it forward as my thanks to organizations like Saving Sight and to all the people involved in the process of restoring my and many others eyesight.”

Cynthia captured these before and after photos to show others a glimpse of how she saw the world with Keratoconus.

 

 

Cynthia’s Photography Gallery

Jason’s Letter of Thanks

Jason’s Letter of Thanks

 Jason’s Letter

After Jason received a cornea transplant, he asked his sister to help him write a letter to his eye donor’s family to thank them for their selfless gift. 

Jason and Mistie on her wedding day. Jason was her husband’s best man.

Jason and Mistie are brother and sister and best friends. After Jason received a cornea transplant, he asked his sister to help him write a letter to his eye donor’s family to thank them for their selfless gift.

Jason and Mistie chose to share their letter with Saving Sight to highlight the life-changing impact eye donation has had for Jason and to thank all eye donors and their families for helping others in their time of grief. 

 


Dear Donor Family:                                                                                                                                          

I am the recipient of a cornea from your loved one. I am having my sister write for me as I don’t write too well. I want to thank you for helping me see again. I am 38 years old and had developed a condition that alters the shape of my cornea. At the time of my transplant, the cornea in my left eye was the shape of a football and I could no longer see even the big E on the eye chart. I had severe headaches due to the eyestrain because of this. I was told that I would go blind because I have the same condition in both eyes. I was having trouble reading, was bumping into things and could not even watch my favorite sports teams play their sports.

Now a little past a month past surgery, I can see!! My vision continues to improve daily and now both eye are equal in vision. I can read the fifth line on the eye chart unassisted. When I went back to the doctor they day after surgery, I was so excited to be able to see. I looked at my sister and mom and exclaimed, “I can see!!” then had to read the line for the doctor. No more headaches, I can watch my baseball games and see to read my books. Every day I am seeing more and smaller things.

While I know that the loss of someone was necessary for me to see, I am thankful. I am sad for your loss and I pray for your family’s comfort. I want you to know that to be given this gift means so much to me. You have given me my life of sports and books back. For that you will have my eternal gratitude.

                                                                                                                May God bless and comfort you,

                                                                                                                Jason

From Jason’s Sister:

Dear Donor Family,

My brother Jason is very special to me. He and I are 14 months apart and he was my first playmate, my best friend, and even partner in crime growing up. You gift means so much more to my family because he is one of God’s special children. Jason may be an adult but he has the mind and heart of a child. He will never grow up.

Jason has the most loving heart I have ever met. I have seen him be bullied and immediately after he heals, he goes up to the tormentors and offers them friendship. While Jason may not change the world through a career, he changes it by being himself. Jason always sees the good in everyone. He is quick to forgive and no one is a stranger. Most importantly he not only shares his faith in God, he lives it.

Jason loves all sports. When asked what is his favorite, he can tell you that it is ______ season and his favorite team is _______ and what their record is. Then tell you that they play _____ tonight … and it continues.

When I heard about Jason’s eyes, I was saddened because it would mean that he one day would be blind. He struggled so much to learn to read. He finally succeeded at the age of 13. Mom and I used Archie comic books to encourage him and reward him for every new thing he read. As he discovered the written word, I would hear “Sissy what’s this word?” “Sissy read to me.”

When Mom approached Jason about writing you and what it meant, he broke down into tears. He hated the idea that someone had to die for him to get the transplant. Then he immediately asked me, “Sissy can you pray for them with me?” I have no doubt he remembers your family in his prayers daily, that is just the way my big brother is.

He told me what he wanted to say in his letter and asked me to write it. While his letter is in my hand, it comes from his heart.

My prayer is that these letters offer you some comfort and peace in your decision to donate your loved one’s organs. Please know that the gift you have bestowed on us will never be taken for granted, no did it go to someone more special. I know that my brother may not be considered worthy of such a gift because of his being mentally handicapped but we are so blessed by it. In closing, your loved one must have been a very special person because he/she has to be in order to view the world through such a special eye.

                                                                                                May God continue to hold you in his hand,

                                                                                                Mistie (Jason’s Sister)

Regaining Sight after 23 Years

Regaining Sight after 23 Years

For 23 years, Angela was 100 percent blind in her right eye. Thanks to the generous gift of sight from an eye donor and the work of her surgeons, she has regained her sight!

When Angela went in for what was a routine eye exam to get new contacts in 2017, her eye doctor expressed concerns about her right eye (which she had been blind in for as long as she can remember) and thought she might have Keratoconus. Her doctor referred her to see an ophthalmologist at MU Health Care. “The following week, when I met my would-be surgeons, they confirmed I had severe Keratoconus, explained what it was, what my options were, and what it would mean if I opted not to do the surgery,” says Angela. “After going over all the pros and cons with my family and the risks (which were incredibly minimal due to my current condition), I scheduled my surgery the following month.”

Angela underwent a cornea transplant to correct her disease, with the added bonus possibility of regaining vision.  “It was really great! I absolutely loved my surgeons; Dr. Shanmugam and Dr. Cowden,” says Angela. “They did a superb job with explaining everything to me, making me feel comfortable, and really letting me know they were going to take care of me throughout the process.” The procedure took 4 hours and was a success.

The Path to Regaining Sight

One thing Angela learned through her experience, and one thing people don’t often hear about, is the possibility of rejection. This can occur when your body’s immune system detects your donor tissue as a foreign object and it tries to destroy it. “I didn’t give much thought to it, however, when it happened to me, it was pretty scary,” says Angela. “I did have a rejection episode a couple weeks later, but my surgeons were amazing and reverted it after 12 days of raising my medications and an injection procedure we did to self-administrate steroids.” Angela added she could not have been in better hands and was grateful she called her surgeons at the first signs of rejection.

“It has been amazing just to see again. My world got so much brighter after surgery, literally! I can’t see very well, comparatively speaking, I’m at 20/150. I’m 6-months post-surgery now, and my surgeons and I have been working on what we can do to continuously gain my vision back,” says Angela.

So much has changed in her life since her transplant in unexpected ways. Angela quips she’s noticeably better at sports now that she has depth perception. “I used to have to work really hard to make shots, and hit things on target. It’s funny not having realized how much depth perception helps people with daily things!” She adds that it’s been wonderful being able to read, see people and experience the world with vision from both eyes.

To those going through corneal transplantation or a similar eye surgery, Angela advises to listen to your body and do what you need to heal. “I ended up taking a week off of work just to sleep. It helped me recover fairly quickly. Additionally, after that time I took off, I worked short days for a week. My experience was unique in that I was blind and then could see. So, I was not only recovering from the transplant, but from gaining vision back. I was experiencing double-vision, migraines, and extreme sensitivity to light. For my recovery, I just did what my body was wanting me to do and I listened to my surgeons and did everything they told me to do.”

The Power of Donation

“Words could never adequately describe how thankful I am,” says Angela of her eye donor. “It did so much for me, much more than what any of my doctors or I believed could happen. It really can change someone’s life in an incredibly positive way.” Angela has been a registered organ, eye and tissue donor since she was 14-years-old and it’s a cause that is near to her heart. “Now, being on the other side of it, it has given me a deeper affection for donation.”

You can join the organ, eye and tissue donor registry at www.registerme.org.

Corneal Transplants Allow Avid Reader to See Clearly

Corneal Transplants Allow Avid Reader to See Clearly

Some of Rosalia’s fondest memories of her mother revolve around reading. “Mother was a reader,” says Rosalia. “She always said a day she didn’t get to read anything was hardly worth it. She would sit down 30 minutes a day to read. It was important to her, and she taught her kids that.”

For as long as Rosalia remembers, the love of reading and learning have been important to her. “When I was in third grade, I read every book in the third grade library,” she recalls, amused. “I’ve been a reader from a long way back. I’ve always joked if I couldn’t find anything to read, I would read the labels on the soup can.”

This love of learning led Rosalia to become a home economics teacher and she also was certified to teach English. It was while teaching she met her husband.

When the hereditary disease Fuchs’ dystrophy threatened Rosalia’s ability to see clearly in retirement, she received two corneal transplants in the span of two years thanks to the generous gift of sight from eye donors. “I just feel so fortunate and blessed because this changed my life so completely,” she says. “I can’t express how grateful I am to the donors for my gift of sight.”

Rosalia is no stranger to Fuchs’ dystrophy and cornea transplantation. Her father underwent two full corneal transplants and her sister has also received two transplants so she knew what to expect. “You don’t just wake up one morning and everything is so cloudy you can’t see,” she says, “But it’s gradual and you try to compensate as long as possible.” As her eyesight diminished, Rosalia began having to read and sew using hand held magnifying glasses they kept in every room in their home. She also was the main driver in the family at the time and needed her vision corrected to be able to continue taking her husband to his dialysis appointments.

Thanks to her transplants, Rosalia can see clearly in her daily activities and while spending time with her 3 children and 5 grandchildren. “It is so wonderful that now I can pick up almost anything and read the fine print. It’s such a blessing.”

Rosalia has long carried the organ donor designation on the back of her driver’s license and encourages others to join the registry as well. “I strongly felt that was important, and having had a parent who had been through it I understand it even more,” she says. “When you no longer need it, if someone else can see or receive a heart, lung or kidney why not donate to help them? Because of my husband’s need for dialysis, I know how long the list is for getting a kidney, so I felt very blessed to be able to receive a cornea transplant,” says Rosalia.

 

You can help others when you join the national organ, eye and tissue donor registry at www.registerme.org. And be sure to discuss your decision with family members so they know what your wishes are regarding donation.

Anita’s Story

Anita’s Story

Thanks to the gift of sight, Anita was able to receive a corneal transplant in hopes of restoring her vision.

Not long ago, diminishing sight threatened to take away Anita’s ability to read and see well enough to sew her quilts. An active and proud grandmother, she and her husband recently retired to Columbia to be closer to their children and grandchildren. “We are loving being close enough to be part of their lives as they are growing up,” says Anita. Though they now live in mid-Missouri, Anita is a proud Vermonter through and through and they enjoy going back to visit every summer.

Anita’s journey with sight started with a cataract operation that did not have the outcome of clearing her vision. Since the cataract surgery, she has had 3 corneal transplants in hopes of restoring her vision in her right eye. “My eye appears to have been damaged by a few bouts of Bell’s Palsy,” says Anita. “My eye wouldn’t blink and during that time most likely caused damage to my eye as it wasn’t closing properly. The eye wasn’t shutting and it might have dried out the bottom of the first transplant.”

Anita’s most recent corneal transplant is working well so far. “With this one they have closed my eye a little bit from the corner to help keep it a tight close so my eye won’t get dried out at night.” Anita has seen progress and her vision keeps getting better and better.

“Following my first surgery, I’ve had Dr. Fraunfelder. He’s been great and I’ve enjoyed working with him,” says Anita. Dr. Frederick Fraunfelder is the director of University of Missouri Health Care’s Mason Eye Institute and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the MU School of Medicine.

Sending Thanks through Correspondence

Anita chose to write a letter to her donor family through Saving Sight’s Correspondence Program. “If someone in my family became an eye or organ donor I would be most appreciative to get a note from the recipient,” says Anita. “This generous decision that their loved one made resulted in my receiving a whole cornea transplant in a procedure aimed at restoring vision in my right eye. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. This generosity will never be forgotten.”

 

Anita is grateful to her donor family and is a registered organ, eye and tissue donor herself.

You can save and enhance lives when you join the national registry at registerme.org.