The life of an ordinary woman, who'd been given an extraordinary gift. The Gift of Sight. This is my story and my life.

Archive for the ‘donor’ Category

Mixed Feelings

Let me say right out the chute that I can NOWHERE imagine what it’s like, nor do I honestly want to EVER know what one feels and even maybe thinks from time to time when their life is LITERALLY in another’s hands to live themselves. Because they need a solid organ transplant, and at times, it means that another human being must die and be willing to give of themselves.

I belong to several groups over on FaceBook. Including a few regarding Organ/Eye/Tissue Donation Recipients. And I for the most part enjoy being a part of each and every one of them.

But a situation for one member came up where they maybe were able to FINALLY get the organ that they have tried to receive multiple times. Sadly once again, the person was turned down. But not because there was a fellow recipient in waiting, but because of the potential donor and their status not making the organ viable.

I know that we all have within us the fight or flight. And we have this ultimate need, if not even a “requirement” to survive and defeat death.

But to HOPE that once your potential donor is “just right” after having the plug pulled so that they can give you their organ that you (while I understand, desperately) need, then to be “bummed” and outright say that the heart “waited too long” to expire is pretty damn SICK.

It’s disheartening to me *personally* to know that while (like I keep repeating) that YOU as one needing a solid organ to give you that second chance at living to your fullest potential, that one takes an almost seemingly “joy” in another’s expiration of life.

I’m ALL for wanting to live (or to see, as was my case) again the way you had used to, or at least as close to your normal as you can get. But to pretty much WISH someone dead? Or at least make light of another’s suffering? No wonder there are SO many people in the world who view us RECIPIENTS as vultures.

It’s because of people like the person I’d described up above.

Those that have died and willed their organs, eyes and tissues have given us all a GIFT. It’s not a right or even a “privilege”. They were willing to give us new life, new sight and a better quality of life.

While I know all too well the JOY in knowing that your life or your sight is being saved when you get “the call”, it SHOULD also be a time to give thanks to your donor. And to think of THEIR FAMILY and their suffering.

And if it doesn’t pan out for you with that potential match? Then I say have a little decorum, heart, compassion, and yes, even some COMMON SENSE, as well as decency. As in don’t post about how “bummed” you are about the person not dying quick enough for you to grab their parts.

To be that way, to me PERSONALLY, is morbid, insensitive to the one that died and their family, disgusting (to a point) and just plain disrespectful.

Am I wrong in my thoughts and/or my feelings? Maybe. Maybe not. Again, I have never needed a solid organ. But across the board, no matter the type of transplant we have had, or will need, along with it, comes responsibility in the means of SELF CONTROL, empathy and sympathy.

Because our gifts came at a GREAT price. The price of another’s life.

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The "Founder" of Sight Resorative Services.. A History Lesson

Richard Townley Paton, M.D. was a man with a mission. A mission to retrieve and safely keep cornea tissue at the ready for doctors to use of their patients in need of the Gift of Sight.

In 1944, Dr. Paton had founded the Eye Bank for Sight Restoration in Manhattan, New York, along with his partner, Dr. John McLean of New York Hospital. A place that would help with harvesting, testing, readying, and transporting viable corneas to doctors and the patients in need of help in regaining their sight through corneal transplantation.

Dr. Paton also did some of the earlier works of helping to perfect the surgical procedure, before Founding the wonderful and now American-wide acclaimed, eye bank.

Some of his corneal donations came from those within the prison settings of convicts whom had consented to the donation of their eyes after their death by execution in Ossining, NY.

The Eye Bank, which is on East 64th Street, was the first organ/tissue banking system to accept eye donations. And it was a joint-effort institution between a total of twenty-one New York hospitals.

From that point on, more eye-collective banks were beginning to open throughout the country. Slowly but surely, more banks opened, and more people had their sight saved, and their lives more enriched due to the thanks and ingenuity of two men who forged a path to a positive means to restore sight to those that otherwise had little to zero chance of ever seeing again.

Medical advances of today in the world and works of sight restoration have made them to be THE most successful transplant of all transplants done in the United States and around the world.

At the age of eighty-two, on February 27th, 1984, Dr. Paton sadly passed away. But not before completing his mission of giving the Gift of Sight to as many people as he could. Thanks to him, myself and MILLIONS of people around the world are seeing things that most of us take for granted.

(initially posted to YouTube on April 27, 2011)

Another Christmas Done. Another Year of Emotions.

..And another Christmas, thinking of a family that you very likely won’t ever get to meet. The family of a person that you know as fact that indeed you will NEVER get to meet. Or say thanks to.

While I had a great time with my family, opening gifts, spending quality time with one another, laughing and just having a great day, that itty-bitty thought came to me of those that I have lost over the years. And of my Donor and their family.

It’s been two years of Christmases now since my Donor lost their life for whatever reason, and that I got their selfless act of love and kindness. And still it breaks my heart to know that there will forever be an “empty spot” at their family’s table.

But it’s gotten easier. And I decided as of last year’s Halloween that the best way to honor my Donor and their family, and this great Gift of Sight is to SMILE, be happy, enjoy the time I have with my family and friends, and LIVE my life.

What better way to honor the stranger who had enough love for others, that when their time came, that they gave the ULTIMATE gift? The gift of sight to one or two people. Possibly also giving to at least one to seven more people the Gift of Breathing, the Gift of a healthy heartbeat. Or even the Gift of walking with new tendons, or a Gift of Skin to graft to God-awful and painful burns.

After the new year has passed, I’m seriously considering to write to my Donor Family and update them on the progress of their loved one’s cornea and let them know that thanks to this person, my life is finally back to normal. I never received a reply back after the first initial letter, so I’m really not expecting one this time, either. If it happens, that would be wonderful. But like last time, I am not going to hold my breath.

So, to you newbie Cornea Graft Recipients, as I learned (and yes it IS “easier said than done”), do NOT feel sad about having to get that tissue as to save your sight. Especially if it was so close to the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah). Because we didn’t “steal” or “take away” anything. We were given one of the GREATEST Christmas/Hanukkah gifts, even if a bit early, that anyone could give and receive. We have our sight back! It may not be perfect right now, especially if recently done. But still, we have our eye(s) and we can SEE.

What greater gift than the gift of unselfish and unconditional love, compassion and giving to others in need is there? Especially from those that made the loving decision to become Organ/Eye/Tissue Donors?

Emotional Times… Tissues Have Them, Too.

When everything had happened and my cornea perforated, thanks to my own stupidity in the end of it all (knuckle slipped from my brow and BAM!), all I felt was fear and anxiety.

I didn’t know what was going to happen next. Was surgery going to be needed? Will I have an eyeball? What happened next?… Those questions haunted me daily all the way up through my transplant surgery.

Then, the anger started. I was mad at myself. I played the “should haves” and the “what ifs”. And they all were aimed at myself. If only I had gotten the skin condition treated sooner. If only I had gone to a better doctor in the first place over the reoccurring eye infections.

There were SO many things I should have, and could have, done different. Then maybe, I would not be where I ended up.

After the surgery, and about a month of recuperation, I started having bouts of depression. It was nearing Thanksgiving (my surgery was 2 days before Halloween and is an entirely different entry altogether) and I had to go in to see my Corneal Specialist for a check-up.

Out of the blue, I started to bawl. I cried so bad, I think that the poor guy was scared I’d pop a stitch and raise my optic pressure through the roof.

Finally, I had blurted it out… Something I had kept silent until that point. I felt guilty. Like I had stolen something. Like because of MY carelessness, someone else had to “pay” to let me make it all right.

I was suffering from Survivor’s Guilt. And a nasty case of it, too.

When my first (and only to date) bout of rejection came in January of 2010, I felt that anger boil up inside of me all over again. I was doing EVERYTHING right. My drops, my pills, my shield. No bending or lifting. Still though, I was rejecting.

I was scared to lose this precious gift. And I was scared that I was letting my donor and their family down.

These days, two years and almost two months later, when things (like the popped stitch that infected and abscessed) go wrong, I get scared. And yes, I get angry. Again. But only at myself and my eye.

I AM SCARED all of the time, but try to keep it in the back of my mind, within the deepest depths. I could reject today. Or tomorrow. Maybe not for another 20 years. Or (hope to God) never. But the POSSIBILITY is always there.

Most people that have never had to go through this type of transplant just view it as “just an operation” and “just eye tissue” that happens to be the “most transplanted thing on the body” with the “most success rate”.

But it does NOT mean that we are any less vulnerable to our emotions as TRANSPLANT Recipients. It does NOT mean that we are ANY less grateful or appreciative, or mindful of our gift, or of our Donor and their family.

A friend of mine over on FaceBook, that I had met through a Transplant group and has had a Liver Transplant had brought up something that I have never thought of. But after “listening” (AKA reading) about it, it made complete sense.

We all (from corneas to hearts, to lungs to skin grafts) suffer quite possibly from some form/amount of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)… What we went through BEFORE our transplants, going through the transplants knowing that (for most of us) someone had to DIE in order to help us live, and the side effects from post-surgery.

That all combined really takes a toll on the Recipient. Emotionally, mentally and physically. Transplants, even in the most simplest of forms, can honestly take their toll on the patient. And in turn, on their family and caregivers (another post for a later time).

So, know my fellow Corneal Graft brothers and sisters, you are NOT alone in your thoughts and feelings. We are not weak. We are strong. And what WE went through is just as much of a “big deal” as those that get a heart, a liver or a lung. Our sight was saved. And our lives were made better.

Because our Donors and their families gave the ultimate gift one can ever receive. The Gift of Sight, and of a better life.