As a nurse, Heather Reed sees the positive impact of organ, eye and tissue donation in the lives of her patients, but the tables were turned when she found herself in need of a corneal transplant. Early in her career, Heather contracted shingles in her eye, causing severe pain and impaired vision.

Heather continued to care for patients, but her declining eyesight made tasks like drawing medicine much more difficult. She knew her worsening vision could end the nursing career she loved so much.

Several years after her diagnosis, with vision in one eye nearly gone, her ophthalmologist recommended a corneal transplant. She was overjoyed at the possibility of regaining her eyesight.

Heather received the call that corneal tissue had become available for her transplant. After what seemed like a whirlwind filled with nerves and joy, Heather opened her eyes to see the complete picture of the world around for the first time in years.

“The very day after the transplant I had sight,” Heather recalled, “It was like the world became double. You think you can see things or make do, but I was wowed after surgery. To go outside and see the whole entire picture or to see my mom’s entire face was a gift.”

Heather soon learned that her corneal donor was a 14-year-old-boy. Though it was heartbreaking to think about the grief her donor’s family was experiencing, she vowed to help him see and experience the world through her eyes.

“I grew up with sports and so be it the little kids on the soccer field or a major league baseball team, I tried to experience all of it, treating this gift like a precious gem,” said Heather. “I now try to see the world through a different view. I always say that since my donor was a male, I have a different view of life on my left side.”

Heather’s husband, Dan, inspired by her restored sight and the generosity of Heather’s donor, chose to be an organ donor before he passed away.

“Dan thought it was so amazing that someone’s organs could change the life of another person,” Heather remarked. “So, when we received the call about donating his tissue, there was no question that it was what he wanted.”

Dan was the life of the party. He loved to travel and see the world, and so there was no question in Heather’s mind that his life was honored by his choice to become an organ donor.

Heather makes it her mission to encourage other nurses to speak with their patients about organ donation. She always makes a point to tell her patients about how the selfless generosity of one grieving family can make an impact for generations to come.

See more of Heather’s story here.

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