My Family is a team. Through ups and downs, good times and bad, we handle all of life’s challenges and we handle them together.
So when I discovered I was suffering from Fuchs’ Dystrophy, a blinding eye disease, my family joined forces to make it through. Just 37 years old at the time of my diagnosis, I was single- handedly raising my 8-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter. When my doctor told me I was going blind and that I would need a cornea transplant for both eyes, my first emotion was fear –fear that I wouldn’t be able to provide and care for my children, but my daughter, Elizabeth, reassured me that everything was going to be alright. My doctor contacted the Michigan Eye- Bank and within a matter of days, I received my first cornea transplant. What happened afterward was the miracle that is the gift of sight.
Thanks to this gift, I was able to see the freckles on my son’s face and the strands of my daughter’s hair. I could identify both kids on the field during sports. Most importantly, though, I was able to remain the sole provider for my family. But our journey did not end there; with the altruistic and team-like mentality that was well-ingrained into our family’s life, we knew we wanted to give back to the organization and cause that helped make our future possible. My son, Jack, had the idea to paint and sell pet rocks, and donate the contributions to the Michigan Eye-Bank. We got to work and painted more than 2,000 pet rocks, selling them at every event we could. The highest donation received for one pet rock was $250 (donations of one dollar or more were accepted).
We didn’t stop there. We rallied our community, family members and professional connections behind the Eye-Bank’s cause through Big House Big Heart – a charitable run supporting a charity of your choice. I decided to reach out to my office through email not just encouraging them to join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry but letting them know what about the fundraising effort I was undertaking for the run. My company felt moved to donate $200 to the Eye-Bank because these efforts. Together we were proudly able to raise $3,000 in contributions from Big House Big Heart.
As the relationship between my family and the Michigan Eye-Bank flourished, we were able to share our story with not only the donation community but Southeastern Michigan via various local news programs. Whether it is attending a donor family gathering, speaking at a press conference or filming a public service announcement, our family feels strongly about sharing the story of my gift of sight so that my story can help others navigate their way through their journey or to simply raise awareness for the importance of becoming a registered organ, eye and tissue donor to help people just like me.