“I was diagnosed with keratoconus, which basically deteriorates your cornea,” says Stephanie. “I have the disease in both eyes, but my right eye ended up progressing a lot faster than my left and made it necessary that I have a cornea transplant.” She adds that though the thought of having her first cornea transplant was scary, it ended up being a pleasant experience.
“I got lucky and had one of the most compassionate surgeons from my area, Dr. Shachar Tauber. When I went in for my cornea consultation, I cried as I am young – I’m only 37. Going into it, it was very scary. I went in the day of my surgery feeling extremely nervous. After a few hours, everything went well, the old cornea was removed, and the new cornea put in. I left with a beautiful blue eye with 16 stitches. My son was amazed because I naturally have brown eyes and the next day, when taking the bandage off, I had a shiny new blue eye,” she says, adding her eye eventually turned back to her natural brown color.
“During my follow-up appointment, I opted to ask about my donor.” Stephanie learned her donor was a 59-year-old female. “I opted to write the family a thank you letter, but never received anything in return and that is ok because I just wanted them to know how grateful I was to them for the gift of sight.” She adds that prior to her transplant she hadn’t considered how much receiving a cornea transplant affects you mentally, especially considering how it impacts your vision.
“Many people only think about the main organs like hearts, lungs, kidneys, livers, but never really your eyes. You see, every day that I look out of my eye and I can see and I can’t help but think of my donor and her family. Because she and her family opted to be a donor, I now can see. I can see to craft, I can see to drive, I can see to work, and most importantly I can see to watch my son grow into a young man.”
“I don’t think people truly understand the importance of being an organ donor. It can help save lives, but it can also be just as important to someone else who needs an organ as small as a cornea…because of someone else I am able to see, and I will forever be grateful.”