Find Us On
An original poem, written by Jody for her mom, Pat.
"My Mother's Eyes"
My mother's eyes were crystal blue
They watched over me as I grew
They read thousands of pages in best seller books
And kept me in line with just one of her looks
And played the notes on a baby grand
Watched a grandson be a wonderful man
Drove to the store and the library too
They aged with grace and wrinkles few
The served her will for 77 years
The request came even before the tears
"Would you like to give the gift of sight?"
Of course we would - it would feel so right
Mom, someone else can see, because of you
And your beautiful eyes of crystal blue.
My story began 61 years ago when I was born with infantile cataracts. We had always been told that I would not be a candidate for a cornea so we were very pleased and surprised when the doctor suggested that as the only way for me to continue to have sight. A cornea transplant was performed January 19, 1988. I will never forget how wonderful it felt to see clearly for the first time in years when the bandage was removed the day after surgery. Even though it hurt to look because of the brightness I couldn't wait to see my daughter and son-in-law.
My second cornea transplant took place on February 8, 1999. The first one 11 years ago was on the same eye, but the cornea failed this past year. The doctor told me this is a very rare occurrence, which happens in about 5% of those who receive corneas. It is wonderful to be able to see things without feeling like I am looking through a gauze curtain. I lead a very full life, which has been made fuller because of the new cornea restoring my vision.
At the age of 17, Kathryn made her wishes known regarding donation to her family—a wish carried out too soon. Kathryn enriched the lives of many and her gift of eye donation continues to make a difference in the recipients’ lives. Kathryn’s parents, Marilla and Dan, have become advocates of eye donation. Marilla stated that, “It was truly heartwarming to learn that Kathryn’s eyes made a difference to not one, but FOUR others.”
"At the age of 21, Mary was a bride of only five short weeks. On the evening of Labor Day 2007, she was struck by a car and pronounced brain dead at the hospital. Our family was asked to consider organ donation. We did not hesitate to say yes, as Mary had been a blood donor since her senior year of high school. We knew in our hearts that this is what she would have wanted to do. Mary was a very caring, loving, and giving person. What a better way to honor her memory than to give the "Gift of Life." It has helped our family's grieving process knowing that others were given a second chance of a healthier life because of the decision we had made." —Written by Donna, Mary’s mother
Don was diagnosed with Keratoconus about 20 years ago. Through years of many types of hard contacts, piggy back contacts, glasses and soft contacts he can finally see, having 20/20 vision in both eyes.
“Approximately 6-7 years ago I was told by my doctor that he could possibly do corneal transplants,” Don said. “The more research I did on this surgery the more excited I was. Yes these are donor corneas and I was not concerned. The extensive steps CNYETB takes to secure corneas as well as other possible donated organs was very comforting.”
“After the first surgery, which went relatively smooth and was painless, the bandage was removed and my vision was incredible - I could see and see very well!” he exclaimed. “I was amazed in an eye that was 20/250, was now 20/40 and was only going to get better. The following year I had the second eye done and the outcome was similar. I can see with both eyes with no correction, and can see very well. I have never been as amazed as I am now, years later for what I was able to take part in.”
DONOR FAMILY & RECIPIENT FAMILY
My name is Michelle, and on August 29, 1996 I received one of those calls every parent dreads. Someone called to tell me my son was being airlifted to Upstate University Hospital. When I arrived there, I was told my son was in critical condition and with severe head trauma. They told me the next 72 hours would be the deciding factor as to whether he would live or die. Robby lived for 6 more days, and on that last day, the doctors told us that anyone who wanted to see him should come and see him then because it didn’t look good. During that conversation with the doctor, I asked him if my son died what we could do to donate my son’s organs. The doctor put his hand in my face and said he wouldn’t even discuss that with me, and I panicked. You see, Robby had told me months before this that if anything ever happened to him he never wanted to live on machines, and if there was anything he could do to help other people he wanted me to do it. So here I was asking the doctor what to do because it was my son’s wishes, and the doctor wouldn’t even talk to me about it. So we went to one of the nurses and asked her what we had to do if we wanted to donate organs, and she got someone to come and talk to us and answer our questions. At 6:45 on September 4, 1996 my son was declared brain dead. All of the family said goodbye and went home. My husband and I sat with the staff from the OPO and did all the paperwork. We were asked about eye and tissue donation and we said no. We finished up with the staff and then were left in a small room alone. We looked at each other and wondered what we would do now. A short time later, someone opened up the door and said that two people were on the way to the hospital to receive Robby’s kidneys. We looked at each other and decided that was our cue to leave.
After a very long bout with depression, I received a call from the OPO asking me to come and speak at a brunch for Organ Donor Awareness week. I didn’t know what to say, so I just told my story and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. But it felt so good to have people listen to me talk about Robby, and to have people want to listen. It just felt so good. Shortly after that I met another mom that had lost her baby boy. Together she and I started a donor family support group we called the Donor Family Network. For the past 14 years I have been working with donor families in many different ways. We really don’t hold actual support groups but when a family needs something, one or more of us get together to help that family through it. We started with a quilt for families, to make a quilt square to put on a local quilt that we could make available to them for local functions. We now have four quilts made. We have yearly fundraisers and use the money to help families get to the US Transplant Games and to Washington DC for the Donor Family Recognition Ceremonies. We have helped four families go to Pasadena, California where their loved ones picture was represented on the Donate Life Float in the Tournament of Roses Parade. We help to recruit new volunteers for all the different agencies, to speak and work at public events like schools, health fairs, hospitals, the New York State Fair and many, many more.
In all the years I have worked with the different agencies, I have learned a lot of things, one of which is the importance of eye and tissue donation. We said no to eye and tissue donation but if we had it to do all over again we would have done so much more. Because you see, a few years ago my husband had to have surgery on his neck. He had already had 5 lower back surgeries and had them take bone from his hip for the surgeries, but when the weather gets bad he has a lot of pain where they took the bone out. This time he decided to use donor bone in his neck surgery. The surgery went much smoother and he didn’t have to have the extra incision in his hip. We spent a lot of time with someone from the eye and tissue bank to talk about the donation end of tissue donation, and how they use it for surgeries such as his. It made him feel so much more at ease about the surgery before he had it.
Because of all of this our entire, extended family has had conversations about donation. My parents even became involved in volunteering with us and started working for the past four years at the Donate Life booth at the NY State Fair. As a result, my parents both signed up for the registry. This past October, my dad died suddenly from a blood clot. He died in this very tiny hospital in a very tiny town, and the staff there when asked didn’t have much information on how they did donation down there. I asked to speak with the OPO or Tissue Bank that they dealt with and when I got on the phone and started to speak to them, they told me that my dad was registered to be a donor so there wasn’t much we had to do as far as consent. It was a great feeling for my mom and all of us to know that dad was going to be a donor. He was able to donate eye and tissue as well as bone. He put down on his form everything so that is what he donated: everything that was physically possible.
Our family has been pro-donation for many years, but it has been some comfort for my mom to receive a letter saying that two people had regained their sight due to my dad and that others were going to benefit from my dad’s death. She even received a Donate Life flag to fly at their home and a note saying that the flag had flown at the tiny little hospital that had tried to save my dad’s life. It brought her to tears.
Brian sustained a corneal laceration while renovating his home. Upon incurring that eye injury, he immediately underwent surgery in an ER but subsequently had to be referred to a corneal specialist, because he could barely see out of his injured eye. Transplant was recommended by his doctor and Brian says, “I was nervous about the transplant, but my doctor had confidence in both the procedure and the quality of the graft which would be obtained through the CNY Eye and Tissue Bank.” Thanks to the corneal tissue he received from CNYETB, he has regained almost all of his vision in his injured eye.
KIDNEY AND PANCREAS RECIPIENT
How do you say ‘Thank you’ to someone who has given you a second chance at life? Thank you just doesn’t seem like anywhere near enough…
My kidneys and pancreas were failing due to the diabetes I’d had since I was four years old. Although insulin injections, a strict diet, and exercise allowed me to do as most kids and young adults do, the diabetes eventually affected my eyesight (resulting in laser treatments, a retinopathy, and cataract surgeries), feet (had to have a toe amputated, developed ulcerations), and kidneys (needed dialysis). I also underwent open-heart surgery to repair a defect I’d had since birth, unrelated to my juvenile diabetes.
On April 21, 1997 I was lucky enough to receive a new kidney and pancreas from an organ donor who died in a tragic car accident. I say lucky enough, because here in NY State we have nearly 10,000 people and nationwide we have over 100,000 people like me who need a transplant to either be saved or have their lives improved, and we don’t have anywhere near enough donors to meet this need. And these lists just keep growing bigger and bigger.
My transplanted organs worked from the day I received them, and I cannot tell you how grateful I am for that. I cannot stress how truly important it is to seriously think about and consent to organ, eye, and tissue donation. Please, please sit and discuss donation with your family. Sign that donor card or driver’s license. Because of the gift of life I’ve been given by my donor and my donor’s incredible family, I have been able to return to work, I’m feeling wonderful, and I’ve been able to do everything with my husband and children again and again these past 14 years. I have that very same wish for all those who are waiting for their second chance at life.
When you go to bed tonight, remember in your prayers all the people awaiting their organ and eye and tissue transplants.
My love, good health, and prayers to all, thank you…