Jane Bradley has always prided herself on being an independent woman. Without family nearby, Jane has lived alone for years. This was always a good fit for her, as she has always enjoyed spending time with her friends at the local community center as much as she did enjoying her quiet home. However, a shift in Jane’s health put her entire lifestyle in jeopardy.
After being diagnosed with keratoconus, a disease affecting the front of the eye, Jane’s vision dipped just above and below being legally blind in each eye. At first, she dismissed the idea of eye surgery – she was afraid of losing the little bit of vision she still had. She began to use hard contact lenses and glasses to correct her constantly worsening vision. But soon, even these were not enough. The lenses were painful and ineffective, and Jane felt her independence slipping away. She realized that soon, she would no longer be able to drive her car or continue her work as a legal assistant. Even more frightening, she worried she would lose the ability to live on her own and would have to rely on others for day-to-day activities.
In 2010, Jane was referred to Dr. Cameron Griffith at the Southern Eye Center in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. She approached the appointment nervously, but had faith in her new doctor. After her first consultation, surgery was scheduled, and 10 short weeks later, Jane received her first corneal transplant. Dr. Griffith warned her that recovery would be slow and not to expect an immediate restoration of vision after surgery. Jane feared the worst – remaining legally blind in both eyes. However, when Dr. Griffith removed the patch after her first transplant that December, Jane’s eye immediately saw and registered the eye chart across the exam room.
“You have given me the best Christmas present anyone has ever given me!” she exclaimed.
Over the next several weeks, her vision improved even more. She was even able to see individual leaves on trees – something she didn’t even realize was possible. It was a profound moment of awakening for Jane. She was regaining the independence that almost slipped away entirely. Undergoing surgery in her other eye was a no-brainer for Jane. Dr. Griffith, who she calls her hero, performed it as well. Now her vision in each of her eyes is “absolutely incredible.”
Jane’s bilateral corneal transplants gave her more than just independence – they gave her a purpose. She now works to spread the word about corneal transplants and eye donation. Her book, My Pathway to the Light, Overcoming Legal Blindness, details her journey and aims to answer all of the questions she found herself asking before surgery.
“There are 285 million people around the world with some degree of visual impairment. There are people who need to learn about their vision problems. I wanted to share my story to help guide them. I think I can give them hope,” she said.
Jane’s surgery also inspired another message from her to others: “Please, please, please, if any part of your body is healthy, consider donation, because you can profoundly change someone’s life.”
The Alabama Eye Bank is pleased to partner with the Mississippi Lions Eye Bank to provide tissue for local corneal transplants.