Ann S.

"The call came in the middle of the night a few days before Christmas. "This is the doctor’s office. We have a cornea for you. Do you want it?" A hundred questions went off in my head, but the one I kept coming back to was, “what if I say no?” I had just come home for Christmas break from college and wanted to spend that cherished holiday with my family. I hadn’t been waiting all that long for the cornea, but I also didn’t want the opportunity to slip by. So I asked the question and was told I would have to take the next tissue that came up or risk going to the end of the line. I decided to wait for the next call. It came about a week later, again around 3 in the morning. Within hours my folks and I were on a plane to Denver, Colorado for a corneal transplant. Hopes were high I would no longer be legally blind in my right eye.

I contracted herpes simplex kerititus of the right eye as a sophomore in high school. What I thought was a zit was really a cold sore, and with the use of my own fingers I spread the disease from lip to eye. What happened next took five years of my life….daily doctor visits, addiction to steroids, sunglasses worn throughout the day (in high school, no less!), and adults telling me, a teenager, to get regular sleep, eat regular meals, and keep the stress at a minimum! As the years and the disease wore on, my cornea became cloudy and eventually I had virtually no vision in that eye. I lost my peripheral vision, too. A transplant could help, my local eye doctor said. They didn’t do them up here (in Anchorage) at that time to any degree, so we looked at Denver, where I have an aunt who’s a nurse and who would take care of me as I convalesced.

Within a couple of hours of arriving in Denver, we were at the hospital. They got the IV drip going eventually and prepped me for surgery. They used a local anesthetic so I was groggily aware of what was going on around me. It seemed like hours before I was wheeled back to my room, patch over my right eye, drugged and was told to keep my head still and rest. I remained like that for two days, including New Year’s Eve. After another day in the hospital I was given the green light to go home to my aunt’s house. I spent another month there recovering and going to doctor’s checkups. A year later I returned to Denver to have my stitches taken out. He must have done a good job….two years after the surgery a hotel guest came to check in at my station and asked if I had had eye surgery. I said I had and he said he was an eye surgeon and could see the stitch marks…he complimented my doctor on fine needlework! It’s been 31 years and even though my eyesight diminishes (most people call it aging), I still have my sight. All thanks to an 18-year-old male, and his parents, who had the foresight and compassion to donate his organs that fateful night."