Nothing prepares a mother to lose her son. In 2012, when her son, Dustin, passed away unexpectedly, Patty Abare’s life was upended.

Patty always thought of her son, Dustin, as a “people person.” Dustin had a big heart and an adventurous spirit. He worked off-shore with coworkers who were like family, and he loved to go fishing and dirt biking.

Between adventures, Dustin made the selfless decision to register as an organ, eye and tissue donor. His mother knew about his decision, but she never dreamed she’d be the one to confirm it after his passing. She was devastated by Dustin’s death, but knowing he was able to help others through donation gave her strength.

In 2015, Patty found herself in need of a donor. When her blurred vision kept her from driving to the beach and doing her favorite activities, Patty visited Dr. Peter Zolty at the Southern Eye Group. He diagnosed her with Fuchs’ dystrophy, a genetic disease affecting the cornea. She discovered she would need a cornea transplant to save her eyesight.

Patty was initially nervous, but she believed the new cornea would help her to return to doing the things she loved most. After her surgery, she was again able to drive to the beach, eat her favorite seafood and enjoy her brand-new baby niece. Thanks to the generosity of her cornea donor, Patty is able to enjoy every opportunity life sets before her.

Because of her son’s selfless decision to be an organ, eye and tissue donor, Patty understands deeply what it feels like to be a family member of an organ donor. This makes her even more grateful for the gift of sight given to her by a stranger. One year after receiving her transplant, Patty received a beautiful letter from her donor’s family, and she discovered that she had many things in common with her donor.

Her donor’s daughter wrote this about her mother, who was Patty’s cornea donor:

“The most memorable thing my mom taught me was to love without judging. She was extremely down-to-earth. She loved dogs and horses. Her favorite color was purple. She loved people. She met no stranger, and it would not be unusual for her to talk to you for 30 minutes in the grocery store.”

Patty’s passion for horses and rescuing and caring for animals made her feel even more connected to her donor. Patty also loves talking to strangers and hearing their life stories. She was thrilled to know that many of the things her donor loved, she would be able to continue to do in honor of her. Patty is deeply grateful to her donor’s family for their selfless gift.

Become an organ, eye, and tissue donor by registering at the DMV, using your iPhone’s health app, or visit

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