Three-Time Cornea Recipient Continues Working Thanks to the Gift of Sight

Three-Time Cornea Recipient Continues Working Thanks to the Gift of Sight

David and his wife Jennifer.

Working in higher education, David’s job requires him to do detailed, number calculations. Because of the generous gift of sight from three donors, David can continue his work. “It is vital that I am able to differentiate between 5’s & 6’s and 3‘s and 8’s,” said David. “Thank you for making it possible that I can continue to work and provide for my wife and me.”

David received his third corneal transplant in January 2017. “I have keratoconus where the cornea grows into the shape of a cone rather than being round,” said David. The disease distorts the vision until it eventually cannot be corrected with glasses or contacts. His most recent transplant was because keratoconus distorted the original transplant in his eye after 23 years. “I have had three cornea transplants. The first was very painful and uncomfortable. Though a ‘success,’ the result was not as satisfactory as hoped. The last two were much more comfortable and recovery was easier,” said David.

Several areas of David’s life have been enhanced because of his corneal transplants. He’s able to continue working, read, watch TV, drive, and watch his daughters graduate from college and begin their adult lives. David added that without the transplants, he would be functionally blind. “The most recent transplant has not healed enough to provide better vision; however, it should eventually. The previous transplants have enabled me to continue working with improved vision. I work primarily with numbers and print,” said David. “Without the transplants, I would not be able to work in my field of study and expertise because I would not be able to read without great difficulty.”

Because of the impact donation has made on his life, David chose to write to his donor family through Saving Sight’s Correspondence Program. “The donor’s family made a choice to provide the cornea during what was probably a very sad and painful time in their lives. It is important for the family to know that the choice made at that time provides sight and hope to another individual and family,” said David. “Hopefully this knowledge gives them some comfort.”

David encourages others to join the national registry as an eye, organ and tissue donor because of his experiences. “A person’s life can be extended, enriched and changed by a donation,” said David. “I would encourage people to donate organs of any kind, not just corneas. As gruesome as some people think that eye surgery may be, it is worth it and the results can enhance a person’s life and even be life-changing.”

 

Has eye donation touched your life as a donor family or recipeint family with Saving Sight?

Share your story with us!

Restored Sight Allows Cornea Recipient to See Nature’s Beauty

Restored Sight Allows Cornea Recipient to See Nature’s Beauty

Pam watching birds on her property with binoculars.

“As my vision becomes clearer and clearer I realize that I had forgotten how bright and colorful our world is and I appreciate and love every second of it,” said Pam.

Watching deer graze in the valley and geese land on her pond were just a few of the beautiful sights of nature Pam enjoys at her country home in Lebanon, Mo. Those sights mean more to Pam now than ever before after the hereditary eye disease Fuch’s dystrophy threatened to take her vision away.

“My vision kept getting dimmer and dimmer and glasses just didn’t fix it,” said Pam. “We realized through several tests that it was Fuch’s dystrophy.” As her vision deteriorated, Pam no longer felt safe driving her car because she couldn’t see road signs on the side of the road and was missing important details as she drove. She struggled with daily tasks, began missing out on some her favorite hobbies and even stayed home from family outings because she couldn’t see.

Ducks swimming on the pond at Pam's home.

As an avid birdwatcher, Pam is able to see the fine details in feathers and coloring she was missing before her transplant.

As an avid birdwatcher, Pam is able to see the fine details in feathers and coloring she was missing before her transplant.In July of 2016, Pam received a successful cornea transplant at Mattax Neu Prater Surgery Center in Springfield thanks to the generosity of an eye donor. Pam chose to write to her donor family to thank them for their kindness. “Families have felt such a loss but they have helped other people,” said Pam. “I knew they had suffered a loss and just wanted them to know we appreciated the gift. It’s not just that the donor gave but the family accepted and followed through with their wishes.”

Today, Pam has regained her active lifestyle exploring the outdoors and gardening. She and her husband are avid birdwatchers and she is able to see the fine details in feathers and coloring she was missing before her transplant. Pam has regained her independence, driving with confidence again and seeing details when grocery shopping, watching television, reading menus in restaurants and even beading her holiday Christmas balls. More than anything, Pam is able to watch her 6 grandchildren play soccer and their other activities and see the world as they see it.

“As my vision becomes clearer and clearer I realize that I had forgotten how bright and colorful our world is and I appreciate and love every second of it,” said Pam.

Corneal Transplant Allows Truck Driver to Keep Driving

Corneal Transplant Allows Truck Driver to Keep Driving

Thanks to the generosity of a donor and their family, Larry received the gift of sight through a corneal transplant in October 2015 to correct his vision and allow him to continue his occupation as a truck driver.

Imagine the murkiness and cloudiness of a pool that doesn’t have a filter. Try as you might, you can’t get a crisp glimpse of what’s underneath the surface. For Larry, the cloudiness in his eye was like that. Everything was getting cloudy and blurry, making it difficult to see. And, as a career truck driver, clear vision and a good bill of health are critical to the livelihood of Larry’s family.

Thanks to the generosity of a donor and their family, Larry received the gift of sight through a corneal transplant in October 2015 to correct his vision and allow him to continue his occupation as a truck driver. “I’m thankful their loved one chose to donate,” said Larry. “My doctor said it would get to where I lost my eyesight completely if I didn’t have the transplant.”

The tissue for Larry’s transplant was provided by Saving Sight and was successful in correcting Larry’s post-cataract surgery edema. Thirty-two years ago Larry had surgery to correct cataracts in both eyes. Recently he began having issues with the old implants and they were taken out and replaced. As is sometimes the case, one of the new cataract implants caused him to develop corneal edema. The cataract surgery caused abnormalities in the innermost layer of the cornea, causing fluid to stay on the cornea. This was causing the blurriness and cloudiness in his vision, which led to Larry needing a corneal transplant.

Prior to Larry’s transplant, he didn’t have a connection to donation and transplantation or know very much about the process. “I never knew that people donated things like that,” said Larry. “I registered as an organ donor after my cornea transplant.” He added that his successful transplant and the impact transplants can have in the lives of others is what motivated him to join the eye, organ and tissue registry. He also chose to support Saving Sight through a financial donation that will help others in receiving the gift of sight.

Larry has a few months of healing left before his doctor will determine his final corrective lens prescription, but his experience has been positive in improving his vision. “The experience is a process but I appreciate the cornea and being able to see. This helped fix my vision to keep driving,” said Larry.

Join Larry and countless others by registering your decision to an eye, organ and tissue donor at registerme.org and share your decision with your loved ones.

Cornea Recipient Takes in the Sights During Retirement

Cornea Recipient Takes in the Sights During Retirement

Hiking over rough terrain and in cold temperatures is worth it to see the beauty of a glacier. On a recent Alaskan cruise from Anchorage to Vancouver, British Columbia, Katie and her husband hiked at Davidson Glacier in Alaska. “We had to hike over rough terrain to get to the glacier. There was a time I was not able to see well enough to hike with confidence. Now that I can see clearly, I feel able to take it on,” said Katie. “Every day I am grateful for my eyesight and the things I can accomplish.”

Just 3 years ago, Katie’s eyesight had deteriorated due to the eye condition keratoconus, which causes the normally round cornea to bulge and become cone-shaped. The misshaped cornea causes nearsightedness and blurred vision. Katie knew someday she would have to have a corneal transplant due to the condition. The question wasn’t if, but rather when. An avid reader, she was no longer able to see the words on the pages of her favorite books and relied on audio books to enjoy her favorite titles. Katie and her husband enjoyed traveling, but unable to read signs in the airport and along roadways, Katie’s worsening vision limited their ability to travel to the places they wanted to go.

For as long as Katie could remember her husband and friends could see things she couldn’t. As she got older and her keratoconus worsened, she wore contacts in both eyes but still couldn’t see. Katie retired early from the state of Illinois where she had found ways to enlarge the print on her computer to see the text and numbers with accuracy in her accounting work.  Retirement provided her time to recuperate, making it the perfect opportunity for her to have her transplant. “One of the things that made me decide to go ahead and have this done is that we never know what the future holds and I would rather do it now and enjoy the benefits longer in my life,” said Katie. “Falling becomes a concern as you age and not being able to see increases that risk. You want to be able to see as well as possible for safety.”

In October 2013, Saving Sight coordinated donation from a generous donor to give Katie the gift of sight through a corneal transplant. With regained sight, Katie couldn’t be more appreciative to the donor and their family. “There is always that sorrow of losing a loved one and I thank them for making this decision,” said Katie. “Organ donation is essential to enhance peoples’ lives, not just corneas but everything – you can save a life or improve a life immensely.” Katie joined the organ donor registry years ago in the state of Illinois and carries the designation on her driver’s license.

Katie advises others who need a corneal transplant to go ahead with the transplant and enjoy the benefits of restored sight. “Be patient with the healing process, but it’s worth it,” she said. “I appreciate what Saving Sight does and being able to see better now.”

Join Katie and countless others by registering your decision to an eye, organ and tissue donor at registerme.org and share your decision with your loved ones.

Gift of Sight Enables Lifelong Teacher to Continue Changing Lives in the Classroom

Gift of Sight Enables Lifelong Teacher to Continue Changing Lives in the Classroom

For over 30 years, Barbara has made a difference in the lives of her students, first as an elementary public school teacher and later at the university level where she trained elementary, early childhood and special education educators to teach children at the most important times of development. At the heart of all she does is a passion for learning and education. Barbara is also an avid Mah Jongg player, enjoys making jewelry and loves to read. Now retired, Barbara continues to change lives by teaching university courses online and through her volunteerism with the American Red Cross.

Fuchs’ dystrophy threatened Barbara’s ability to continue changing lives, but thanks to the generous gift of a donor, she’s still active serving communities through the Red Cross. With a team of other retired educators as part of the Pillowcase Project, Barbara visits schools in Missouri to talk with thousands of 3rd-5th graders each year about emergency preparedness and basic coping skills in disasters, such as house fires, earthquakes and tornados. Barbara is also a member of a Red Cross disaster action team (DAT) that responds to house fires to help families cope and secure basic necessities.

“It’s kind of miraculous! As my eyes were deteriorating it became harder to see and reading was becoming blurry, so it made a big difference in what I am able to do,” said Barbara. “It’s remarkable that someone cared enough to donate those two corneas to someone like me.”

“Thank you – those two words don’t say it enough,” said Barbara.

When Barbara was in her early 40s, her ophthalmologist identified that she had Fuchs’ dystrophy. Her doctors monitored the deterioration until it progressed to the point she needed a transplant. Barbara had an endothelia keratoplasty on her left eye in March 2015 and on her right eye in August 2015. An endothelial transplant replaces the deeper layers of the cornea and does not require stitches. Her transplants were both successful and Barbara is recovering well.

Barbara was familiar with the degenerating and hereditary eye disease as both her father and paternal aunt had it as well. “I’ve always had the universal donor designation on my license because I’ve felt an ethical connection to donation. I just feel that it’s important, partly because my dad had two cornea transplants as well,” said Barbara. Barbara is also a blood and platelet donor.

“I encourage people to really be mindful of that process and organ donation. I think people can really make a difference to the life of someone else,” said Barbara.

Through her experience Barbara hopes that people learn more about the transplant process. She said she wants people to know it’s available and that Saving Sight is an organization that makes corneal transplants possible by facilitating the donation process.

Barbara chose to write to her donor families through Saving Sight’s correspondence program. “I felt like I needed to make a connection with the family and let them know that I received the cornea, that it’s going well and to let them know how thankful I am,” said Barbara.

“I just think it’s enhanced the quality of my life,” said Barbara. “You don’t really realize how important sight is until it’s gone – it’s a miracle they can make it better.”

Alla’s Story

Alla’s Story

Alla and Skippy, her Miniature Schnauzer

When Alla was in school, she loved to play softball. Growing up in a small Kansas town in the 1920s, there wasn’t a girls’ team for her to play on. Short on players, Alla found herself playing catcher for the boys’ team. “The grandkids get a kick that grandma played on the boys’ team,” said Alla. Today, she enjoys spending time with her family, which includes four children and a slew of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Alla also enjoys her charcoal drawings, swimming and taking lots of walks with Skippy, her Miniature Schnauzer. “He’s so cute and looks out for me,” said Alla.

When Alla went in to the eye doctor to get new glasses, she was told glasses alone wouldn’t make her vision better. Her doctor recommended surgery to remove scar tissue from her right eye. Nearly 40 years ago, a tree limb came in the window of a moving car, hitting Alla in the face and eye. “It hurt but I didn’t think too much about it at the time. We’re assuming that’s what caused the scar tissue and, as I got older, it started to get worse,” she said.

Alla had the surgery, but removing the scar tissue wasn’t enough to save her vision. In May 2016 she received the gift of sight from a generous eye donor by way of a penetrating keratoplasty corneal transplant. “My other surgery didn’t heal and there was a place in my eye that was evidently very thin. With it not healing, if it had gotten a hole in it I would’ve been blind, so it was just better to take care of it before it happened,” Alla said.

Only a few months out from her cornea transplant, Alla is in the healing process and is waiting to see the full results of the transplant. She is looking forward to being able to drive again when that time comes and being able to drive herself to swim again. “I can tell that the eye is gradually getting better,” said Alla. “I can see out of it okay but it’s still fuzzy.”

Before her transplant, Alla didn’t know much about the eye donation and transplantation process. “I was just absolutely amazed,” said Alla. “It’s just fantastic and everyone has been so helpful and so kind about everything. I knew people donated their eyes and I didn’t know how it worked.” Saving Sight worked with Alla’s surgeon to provide the corneal tissue for her transplant. “I just think it’s wonderful that people donate and I hope I can donate when I leave this world,” said Alla, a registered organ donor who proudly carries the designation on her driver’s license.

For those who are nervous to have a corneal transplant to save their sight Alla said, “I’d tell them not to be scared to have it done. I wouldn’t be able to see without it.”

You can join Alla, her eye donor and countless others who have made the selfless decision to save the sight of others by registering to be an eye, organ and tissue donor. Join the registry today at registerme.org and share your decision to be a donor with your loved ones.