I am a divorced father of two beautiful boys ages 15 and 13. I have been a licensed funeral director and embalmer for 31 years. My hobbies are baseball and reading.
I noticed the eyesight in my right eye becoming blurry about 15 years ago. A few years later I was diagnosed with Keratoconus by an ophthalmologist at the VA outpatient Clinic in Baton Rouge.
The condition really affected my life in so many ways. I would squint so much that people would ask me what was wrong. It was really embarrassing. Parts of my job are very fine and detailed, just like a surgeon’s. With my eyesight like it was, I had a lot of trouble differentiating anatomical structures. As a funeral director, I coordinated and helped Southern Eye bank with corneal donations. I will never forget the first corneal donation I helped with after my surgery. It was such a riveting experience, I started crying. After all those year I never once thought I would be a cornea recipient myself.
My surgeon, Ginny Kullman, M.D., was great. I started seeing her in 2014 and then quit. After three years, I went back to her in 2017. By then, I was at the end-stage of Keratoconus and my cornea was completely cloudy. During the eye exam, I could only see finger motions with my right eye. She informed me that I had to have a corneal transplant, so on February 22, 2018, I had a full-thickness corneal transplant done. The surgery went well with no complications. I had adjusted well to the new cornea and steroid eye drops for anti-rejection.
Since my surgery, my life has been dramatically changed. The colors, edges and shapes of everything are a lot more vivid. When I step off a curb, my sons don’t have to help me. My depth perception has improved a lot. My two boys have said, “Daddy, you can see again.” They still watch me and are very protective of me – a blessing.
It has meant the world to me and my family to have my sight back. Just to be able to read something without squinting is amazing.
This journey has taught me what we sometimes take for granted in life. I am most thankful for the way God has kept me through this journey and has seen me to the end of it. If anyone has perfect eyesight, please don’t take it for granted.
I can now walk outside and see all the colors so vibrant. My boys run up and show me things I that I can see and I know how to respond to them.
To my donor family – If I could even meet you I would say you gave me the most precious gift anyone could ever give. Knowing that your loved one is a part of me is very humbling and an honor. Your loved one has passed on but a part of them can live on through me. God bless you all and thank you for your precious gift to me.
Through the act of donation, my life has been changed forever. There is a whole new world for me to rediscover, memories to recapture. God works in mysterious ways, I count myself as being one of those miracles.
After my parents, sister and other loved ones passed, I found comfort in keeping them in my memory, and I feel that, as long as someone is remembered, they are still here with us. I can assure you that, for the rest of my life, not a day will go by that I don’t think of your loved one, my donor, with gratitude and thanks.
A Cornea Recipient
Glenda, the mother of five, sent a “Thank You” letter to the mother of her 17-year-old cornea donor. She wrote that she now has six children. “Five who are still with me and one who helps me see the world with his enthusiasm and joy.”
I did not know you but I wish I did. I wish I knew your name. I have been talking to you, imagining you, and thanking you every day since the operation. I also think of your family; their loss must be devastating. Sometimes I can almost feel their grief, perhaps it is because we are now connected. I can only hope that my gratitude for your very special gift to me brings them some solace. And know from now on, every image I see, every image I record, will share a part of your vision in it. We blink together now, across the divide.
A grateful recipient
To my donor family,
I am extremely sorry that you lost a loved one. When my doctor informed me that I needed a cornea transplant, he said that the cornea would come from someone who donated their eyes.
I was sad at first to know my vision would come from someone who lost their life but I was comforted to know that there are good people in this world that are kind-hearted. My donor did not have to say “yes” to donation but I bet he/she did because they must have been a very kind person. I am honored to have been given such a wonderful gift from him/her.
Because I had my transplant, I am able to play with my children without supervision. My wife and I have four-month-old twins and they are a handful! I have been able to go back to work and help her with our girls.
Thank you from my wife, our children and myself. We are so thankful for our donor. Thank you so very much!
Your recipient family
I am the mother of a sweet four-year-old boy who has had two corneal transplants. One cornea came from you. I think of you every day. My son’s first corneal transplant happened when he was two years old but unfortunately did not heal well. His doctor has said that this cornea was beautiful and has a very high percentage rate of success.
My son likes to play outside but we watch him carefully. He also loves to play with his sister and brother. My husband will be returning from his service in November and has not seen our son since the surgery. He will see a different child. He is much happier now. My son does not know how lucky he is that your family agreed to donate. He will. I will tell him over and over again about his donor. We are very grateful for the first donor and are very grateful for you.
Because of your generosity, my son and our family live a normal life. The ophthalmologist stated that my son may never need another transplant and that he is very fortunate because pediatric corneas are very hard to locate. That makes me believe that the donor was a child like my son. I can’t imagine losing a child or any member of my family and then turning around and helping someone you don’t even know. I can’t thank you enough. I will always let my son know how much of a hero his donor family is to us.
All of our gratitude.
To whom it may concern:
I am the cornea recipient who wants to thank you for your decision to donate. Words can never describe how grateful I am for your gift. You are in my prayers.