Alexis Zorrilla was the “face” of Eye Donation Month 2022. Here she catches us up on what’s been going on in her life for the past year, and her continued progress since receiving a corneal transplant.
Catching Up with Alexis
In September of 2021 I received one of life’s most precious gifts, a cornea transplant from a complete stranger who made the simple but courageous decision to register as an eye, organ, and tissue donor in the state of Texas. The cornea transplant not only improved my quality of life after I had developed an infection that took my sight, but it impacted me emotionally and gave me a new view on life.
Initially, losing vision in one eye was scary and involved an abundance of change that I was not prepared for, but after receiving the transplant I knew I had to push myself to embrace my new “normal” and make the most out of the second chance at sight that I was given. During recovery I was blessed with a strong support system between family, friends, and even strangers I connected with after sharing my story on a small TikTok series and joining a cornea transplant recipient support group. I found that talking about my experience was therapeutic, so I was ecstatic when I was invited to share my story with the Eye Bank Association of America. I joined the leadership council for the Eye-Bank of New York, where I live, and even had the unique opportunity to meet the team at the UT Southwestern Transplant Services Center Eye Bank in Texas who handled every step of my transplant, which led to me meeting the family of my donor.
One of the things in life that brings me the greatest joy is exploring new places, something I thought would be jeopardized when I was navigating my new vision limitations, but I was not going to let anything stop me. In September of 2022, on the one-year anniversary of my transplant, I booked a flight to Portugal and made a promise to myself to keep exploring the world even if it looked different than before. Two months after that I took a cruise throughout Europe and embraced every sunset, every snorkel underwater, and learned to really appreciate what vision I had left. Then in March of 2023 I received my first pair of sclera lenses which gave me 20/20 vision in my eye for the first time in 1.5 year, a feeling I will never forget as I stepped out of the clinic and broke down in tears when I looked down the street of New York City and embraced what I had been missing. Six months later I feel so blessed to share I have continued exploring four new countries, regained the ability to drive, and I am working towards my goal of getting back into scuba diving with my new eyesight.
My new view on life is making a conscious decision to wake up each day and appreciate my five senses. I never miss the opportunity to hold the hands of my loved ones, listen to those around me who can provide new knowledge, stop and smell the roses when life goes too fast, taste cuisines around the world, and most importantly, not only look around me, but really see and take in the beauties this world has to offer. My life will forever be impacted by the cornea transplant I received, and my biggest aspiration is to continue sharing my story to encourage others to not only appreciate the health we wake up with each day, but also share that health by registering as an organ/eye/tissue donor so that you can give the same gift I received one day.
To give the gift of sight to an appreciative recipient like Alexis, register as an eye, organ, and tissue donor today. For more information on Eye Donation Month, go to EyeDonationMonth.org.