Mary – Cornea Recipient
While working as a high school librarian, Mary noticed that during the second half of the day print became blurry and she sometimes experienced double vision. She was diagnosed with allergic conjunctivitis and atopic dermatitis. These two ailments combined with the need to have cataracts removed, caused Mary to rapidly lose her vision. At the age of 42 she was forced to retire from a job she loved as she could no longer see well enough to assist her students. “I spiraled down into a deep depression,” Mary remembers. “I would have daily pity parties.” Along with losing her ability to work, Mary also discovered she could no longer drive. Her lifestyle was drastically changed. Mary decided she was going to find a doctor that could help. After a 12 year search she discovered a surgeon that recommended bi-lateral corneal transplants to restore her vision.
The day the call came notifying Mary that a cornea had been donated for her first surgery was a memorable one. She was nervous about what would happen but knew that she had been given a precious gift from a stranger. That morning she signed up herself to be an organ, eye and tissue donor. “Transplantation saved my sight, changed my life, improved my attitude and has provided me numerous opportunities to serve and travel,” exclaimed Mary. “I would be honored to do the same for someone else.”
Caleb – Cornea Recipient
Caleb spends his spare time on the baseball field. Between ball games he loves reading history books and swimming. All the things a 12-year-old should do. However, seven years ago, after an accident, he was told that he would never see out of his right eye again–making all of these activities nearly impossible. “The doctor told us there was nothing he could do. As a mother it was devastating to hear. He was only 5 at the time, and all I could think about was all of the things he was going to miss out on in life,” said Andrea, Caleb’s mom. His parents refused to give up easily. They continued to search for an ophthalmologist that could help. When they met Dr. Donna Brown at the Virginia Eye Institute they were relieved to learn that a corneal transplant and removing a traumatic cataract could restore Caleb’s sight. The impact has been tremendous. “It is still very emotional for me to think about someone giving him this gift. Each new experience he encounters is special because someone had the courage to donate.”
Joshua – Donor
Josh was a Bonner Scholar and upcoming senior at Emory and Henry College. He never met a stranger and always had a smile. He had a caring and compassionate spirit and was always willing to help family or friends. Josh also made a difference in many young lives with his volunteer service at the Boys and Girls Club of America and as a tutor at local high schools. The quote that best describes my son is, “If something comes to life in others because of you, then you have made an approach to immortality.” It is with a certainty that I can tell you something has come to life in others because of Josh. We will reunite someday!
Keith – Donor
Keith was always there to help anyone in need. He told me when it came his time to leave this world he wouldn’t need his eyes anymore. He would be getting new ones where he is going and hoped his eyes would help someone else to see.
Rodney – Donor
Our youngest son also named Rodney has an eye disease named Keratoconus. He has had a cornea transplant and will need another one for his other eye in the future. So the fact that his father was only able to donate his cornea was very special to us as a family. Rodney and his father were very close and it was very special to all of us that his father was able to help someone just as someone was able to help his son.
Nick – Donor Father
Even when Nick and Gina faced one of their darkest days, the day their son Danny died of brain cancer, they were still thinking of others’ well being. “We always taught our son to give back. That when given the chance you should do everything you can to help others” said Nick, Danny’s dad. That is why they did not hesitate when approached about donation. Unfortunately because of extensive chemotherapy Danny’s organs and tissues could not be transplanted but both of his corneas were used to restore vision to two individuals. “Each time I read the letter I received from one of the recipients I am overcome with pride,” Nick reflects. “My son is my hero.” Nick remains active lobbying Congress for more money for brain cancer research and volunteers to speak to high school students about the importance of donation. Giving back just as he taught his son to do.
Maria – Donor
Maria was truly an angel walking on this earth. Ironically, Maria gave the gift of sight, a gift she was unable to use for herself after cancer took her vision away. It was clear to everyone she met that Maria was a gift from God.
Edward – Donor
Ed was so much more than a loving husband. He was a devoted father, grandfather, brother and uncle. He was a best friend, teacher, optimist and a giver to his family and friends; he never knew a stranger. He felt very strongly about being a donor so others could have a better life. He had a good sense of humor—a man of many talents. We miss him terribly, but know he is rejoicing in heaven.
Betty – Donor
Faith, family, friends and furry felines – these were the loves in the life of Betty. Her generosity to her church, many charities, friends and family were unsurpassed. It is no surprise that her last contribution was the “gift of sight”.
Deborah – Donor
Deborah finished a courageous 3 1/2 year battle with ovarian cancer in November of 2008. At age 47 she was called to be with God; leaving family, friends, and colleagues with whom she shared her loving and patient heart as a wise counselor and steady, loving friend. Debbie had a 7 year career as an Air Force Officer and a total of 16 years as a systems analyst at companies including KPMG Pete Marwick, TRW and Northrop Grumman. Debbie had chosen to be an organ donor and her family honored her wishes. Maybe through her donation and groundbreaking research, someone can see more clearly than previously thought possible.
Frank – Donor
Almost always clad in shorts and bare feet, Frank towered above most people. He used his massive hands and undeniable skills to create breath-taking original stone sculptures, fireplaces, and works of art. Frank was devoted to his family and believed that most problems could be solved by the single phrase, “I love you.” Frank’s passion, charm, and azure blue eyes were irresistible and his spirit and humor were infectious. To quote a close friend, “You only need one dose of Frank to be hooked.” He was my best friend, the perfect partner, and my great love.