After her two cornea transplants, Wilma chose to give back to others.

Imagine living your life as if you were looking through waxed paper. You couldn’t read the newspaper or your favorite recipes. You would have trouble identifying your grandchildren on the soccer field. You could no longer safely drive your car, relying on others to get anywhere.

For Wilma of Decatur, Ill., all of these, and many other issues, were realities because of her battle against Fuch’s dystrophy, a genetic eye disease that slowly steals one’s vision. Her only escape from permanent blindness? A corneal transplant using donated tissue from Heartland Lions Eye Banks.

In 2009, Wilma underwent two partial thickness corneal transplants. The surgeries themselves went smoothly, but she faced some difficulties in her recovery. “I did have quite a bit of pain the day of and following surgery, but it was well worth it,” said Wilma. “I know friends who’ve had both partial and full cornea transplants, and neither one experienced pain. Every surgery is different, and the pain wasn’t anything that lasted more than a few days.”

Within six weeks of her surgery, this retired bookkeeper and grandmother of five noticed significant improvements in her vision, and is now able to see 20/25 without glasses and 20/20 with corrective lenses for her astigmatism. Today, Wilma is back driving, reading and working on her computer as well as enjoying her favorite hobbies, including genealogy and bird watching.

Remarked Wilma, “It’s just unreal. I look outside and not only see the tree and the leaves, but the stems and the veins of the leaves. And now I can tell the difference between squirrels and rabbits in my yard. I think of those who’ve never been able to see in their lifetime and how fortunate I am to be able to see. It’s very emotional.”

Since her surgery, Wilma continues to make a difference in the Eye Bank’s efforts to improve the eyesight of individuals in Illinois and around the world. She has written her donor families to thank them for their gifts and is a generous financial contributor to the Eye Bank’s mission, helping us to provide free gratis tissue to those in need and to work with researchers in discovering the causes of and cures for eye disease.

In addition, Wilma continues to encourage others to join their state’s registry in honor of those who gave her the gift of sight, “Words can’t tell you how much my donor and donor families mean. They gave me such a precious gift when they lost someone precious to them. I think of them every day when I wake in the morning and open my eyes.”

Wilma is so very thankful as well to everyone involved in her surgeries and recovery. “I will be forever grateful to those involved with the donor families and the donor tissue at the Eye Bank and to my wonderful surgeon, Dr. Matthew Thompson, and his staff at Springfield Clinic in Springfield, Ill. It couldn’t have happened without a multitude of people doing a fantastic job.”

Everyone at the Eye Bank is thrilled we were able to play a part in helping Wilma regain her lost vision and thank her for her continued commitment to helping others facing a lifetime of blindness.