Jennifer stood in a hospital room with her brothers, making the difficult decision to take their mother off life support. Her mom had a number of health issues at the time, and Jennifer and her brothers had already given up on the idea of organ donation.
“I remember when I was a girl, my mom said she wanted to donate her body to science,” Jennifer recalls. “She wanted to do that so she could help others.”
As she was leaving the hospital after her mother passed, Jennifer got a surprising call asking if she would be willing to donate her mom’s corneas. “I was so excited to get that call. It was an easy decision,” she remembers. “We were not on the fence at all.”
As Jennifer and her brothers were saying goodbye to their mother, Howell Bigham was preparing for cornea transplant surgery. Howell struggled with Fuch’s dystrophy, an eye disease that can lead to vision loss, for years. “It reached the point where I was almost legally blind,” says Howell. “It was unsafe for me to drive.
Howell knew it was time to consider surgery when it became difficult to enjoy his favorite activities like reading, writing, and yard work. His surgeon, Dr. John Parker, successfully performed corneal transplants in both eyes, and Howell was able to see clearly for the first time in years. (more…)
Judy Wilson is a woman on the go. Between her two passions, world travel and her family, Judy doesn’t have the time or patience for anything to hold her back. She spent her life making (and achieving) incredible goals, like her dreams of snow skiing with each of her grandchildren.
When she was diagnosed with Fuchs’ dystrophy, a disease that ultimately leads to vision loss, in 2005, her life didn’t change. “I wasn’t experiencing vision loss or pain. I just knew that eventually, it would have to be taken care of,” remembers Judy.
Ten years later, Judy’s diagnosis was mentioned once again during a screening for cataracts. “Surely you know that you have Fuchs’,” said her doctor. Judy’s response: “Is that bad?”
Judy knew she had to take this seriously. She received a “nudge from God” when her neighbor recommended a visit to Dr. Jack Parker at Parker Cornea. She still remembers telling Dr. Parker in their first meeting, “I only have two eyes. I’ll go to the Netherlands if it means having this surgery done well!”
As it turns out, that trans-Atlantic trip was not going to be a necessary one. Dr. Parker was a perfect fit for her most important requirement: a doctor with experience. Years of training, thousands of surgeries and careful attention to detail brought Dr. Parker to the top of her list. (more…)
Maggie Caraway was a 15-year-old known for her positive attitude and her giving spirit. “Maggie’s strongest desire was to help others,” says her mom, Kimberly. “Throughout her life she loved giving to others. She gave gifts to teachers and friends for special occasions or sometimes, just because.”
Tragically, Maggie unexpectedly passed away on April 15, 2019. Just one month before her death, Maggie registered to be an organ donor when she received her drivers permit. Her mom says it is a decision Maggie made without hesitation.
“On the day of her passing, we received a call about donating Maggie’s corneas,” says Kimberly. “Without question we said yes, knowing the opportunity to restore someone’s eyesight would be her greatest gift of all.”
Maggie’s generosity allowed two people to receive corneal transplants. The recipients wrote Kimberly to thank her for the gift of restored eyesight. Frank, a grandfather who has struggled with his sight for over 20 years, told Kimberly, “The gift your daughter gave me will always be appreciated.”
Maggie’s unselfish gift even had a global impact. Rhengu, a mom in China who was unable to work after losing her vision, says, “Your daughter is so beautiful, kind, and generous. Without her donation, I wouldn’t have my present life and would continue to live in the dark.”
Though the pain of losing her youngest child is still extremely difficult, Kimberly treasures her memories of Maggie. “She wasn’t a chatty teenager, but she was wise beyond her years,” Kimberly says. “My favorite memory is when she was elected freshman maid in homecoming court. She was beautiful as she was escorted by her father. Maggie was so happy in that moment. It was breathtaking.”
Kimberly takes comfort knowing Maggie is seeing the world through the eyes of her cornea recipients. “I know Maggie is smiling from heaven because God allowed her to give one last gift. She is now seeing the beauty of the world through the eyes of others,” Kimberly says.
Kimberly views organ, eye, and tissue donation as a way to give one of life’s greatest gifts. “To me, donating an organ is one of the ultimate gifts you can give,” she says. “If someone else may benefit from something you have, then why not?”
You can make a difference by registering to be an organ, eye, and tissue donor at www.advancingsight.org or use the Health app on your iPhone.
Help others today by making a financial gift to Advancing Sight Network. As a nonprofit organization, we appreciate the support of our community to help restore sight. Give today at www.advancingsight.org/give-financially.