My name is Sarah. I am 37 years old and I am so blessed to have my family, my friends, God and the kindness of a stranger who changed my life forever.
I was born with congenital cataracts and had eye surgery to remove the clouded lenses in both of my eyes at the age of seven. I grew up wearing thick bifocal glasses and later contact lenses leading a happy and visually functional life.
As a young adult, it was mentioned by my optometrist that I had Fuchs’ dystrophy, a degenerative corneal eye disease. I knew the disease may eventually require surgery, likely much later in my life.
I didn’t really give that a second thought. I was seeing well and living a healthy life. One day 2 1/2 years ago, my then 1 year old son accidentally scratched my cornea. I went to the doctor when it didn’t clear up in the first couple of days. I was prescribed antibiotic eye drops and it became apparent my Fuchs’ dystrophy was affecting the ability of my cornea to heal. It was as if this simple eye injury had exacerbated my underlying eye disease, that had not really affected me up until this point.
Several months of praying and hoping my cornea could recover, resulted in eventually realizing it was not going to be resolved. My vision deteriorated and my cornea developed blisters which were painful. It was difficult to be outside due to light sensitivity, and my overall pain made it hard to live my normal life. It had become hard for me to be the mom I wanted to be. I couldn’t help my kids with their homework or play outside with them. It was difficult for me to do my part time job being a secretary for a children’s occupational and speech therapy practice. It also became difficult to drive.
I would require two eye surgeries. First a Glued IOL surgery. Several weeks later my eye would be ready for my DMEK cornea transplant. I knew this would be necessary, but it was very emotional and scary to go through with the surgeries. The most overwhelming part was the extreme gratitude and weight of the gift from my cornea donor. I knew this gift meant a hardship was also happening for loved ones and family members of my donor. I was constantly thinking of my donor in the weeks leading up to my cornea transplant. I was praying for them and their family.
I knew I could never repay the gift that was being given to me, but I could honor the life of the person who would give selflessly and the family who would support and agree to that gift. I asked that my friends and family take this experience of knowing me and the drastic way this organ donation would improve my quality of life. I told them I hoped this would inspire them to consider being an organ donor and or support the decision of their loved one if they choose to be an organ donor. And above all I asked them to pray for my cornea donor and their friends and family.
One week after my first surgery most of my restrictions were lifted. One month later, my eye was doing so well, I was able to see 20/30! My second surgery went very smoothly and I could not be happier with my outcome. I was living pain free and with much improved vision that continued to improve as my eye healed.
The more I continued this journey and the struggles I faced with my eye and the limitations it placed on my life, I felt myself wondering why all this was happening to me. What was I supposed to learn from all this? I certainly am grateful every day for my sight and being pain free, but the more I reflect and learn from my experience is that a lot of very special people helped me through this. My family and friends praying for me and supporting me, my doctors and surgeon, Price Vision Group, Dr. Feng and all the staff, all the people at VisionFirst helping me receive my cornea from my donor, my faith and God. Most of all I am so thankful for my donor and their friends and family. What a generous gift I have been given.
I want to share my story so people will understand what a priceless and life changing gift organ donation is. There is nothing more beautiful in life than choosing to help a complete stranger, without any obligation. How selfless and loving. What a beautiful way to honor a life by saving or improving the life of a perfect stranger. Thank you for helping people like me.
Courtesy of VisionFirst – Indiana Lions Eye Bank