Eye Donation Month, A Community of Compassion: Meet Zoe!
The “face” of Eye Donation Month: A Community of Compassion, is Zoe (front left), recipient of a corneal transplant at only 6 weeks old. Her story is truly a full circle example of all the players in a community of compassion coming together to #RestoreSight.
Zoe was born with Peter’s Anomaly, requiring a cornea transplant in order for her to see.
Her donor is a little girl named Aolani. She is remembered as a vibrant, outgoing 10 year old who loved arts and crafts, and working as a reporter at her school’s newspaper. Her Mother, Rosalba (top right, wearing ‘Aolani’ t-shirt), once brought her along to the DMV while she renewed her driver’s license. During the renewal, Rosalba indicated that she wanted to be an organ donor, and explained to her daughter how other people’s lives could be saved or made much better through donation. Always one to help others, Aolani understood and agreed with her.
Only ten months later, Aolani was tragically killed in a car accident. Remembering the DMV conversation with her daughter, Rosalba generously donated Aolani’s corneas.
Shortly after Aolani’s death, a skilled corneal surgeon transplanted one of her corneas into Zoe’s eye. After the transplant, Zoe’s mother posted her appreciation to the then unknown donor family on UT Southwestern Transplant Services Center’s (TSC) Facebook page. Weeks later, Rosalba called TSC asking to meet the recipient of her daughter’s cornea. TSC’s staff (pictured in the background with Rosalba) assisted the two families in exchanging letters, and facilitated an in-person meeting at the “Garden of Life Spring Celebration Day” – an annual event honoring donor families and recognizing recipients.
While meeting, Zoe was instantly drawn to Rosalba, and spent most of the event in her arms. Their touching bond brings comfort to Rosalba and the rest of Aolani’s family. She says, “Aolani was able to change the lives of two other people and their families. I know this is what she would have wanted. I also want others to know that when they have a loss, like mine, think how your loss can change other people’s lives…I’m glad my daughter could make it possible for a little girl to be able to see.”
Zoe’s ability to see is thanks to a full Community of Compassion effort: The DMV allowing individuals to register as donors, Rosalba and her family for generously donating Aolani’s corneas, Zoe’s Mother for fully appreciating this gift and reaching out, the TSC staff for recovering and processing the corneal tissue, and later facilitating a meeting between these two families, the surgeon for performing the transplant.
Today, nobody would ever know that Zoe once suffered from lack of vision. She’s living a full life, complete with all the blessings that the gift of sight provides. She’s reading, playing t-ball and starting soccer, and going to school. None of this would be possible without the selfless gift of sight, and a passionate community of compassion working each day to #RestoreSight.
Be a donor hero to a family like Zoe’s; register as a donor.