Seeing is Believing
“What kind of disability insurance do you have?” That was one of the scariest questions I have ever been asked. I was 36, a full-time registered nurse, divorced mother of two and I was experiencing severe visual problems. My doctor thought I might have to quit my job and go on disability – I said to him, “We cannot have this conversation, we just can’t.”
My vision problems started in 1994. I was originally diagnosed with a corneal abrasion in my right eye. Months went by and I continued to have problems. I was in so much pain that my eyelid would close and I could not make it open, especially in bright lights. I was very scared by what was happening to me.My condition progressed and spread to both eyes and it was clear something more than a corneal abrasion was affecting me. Rosacea led to punctuate areas (tiny punctures) on my corneas, compromising my vision.
My declining vision affected my ability to be a mom. Everyone who has children knows – they have to be places and moms have to drive them there. I had no options but to drive – even with my children – while visually impaired and I prayed we would make each trip safely. I couldn’t read road signs and would “landmark” spots along the way and drive familiar routes. One time, on the way to my daughter’s volleyball match, I ended up in a town 20 miles away and missed the game entirely. I couldn’t see the action during their softball games. After a while even their faces began to blur, and so did my own. At work my sight took me from a nurse who was proud of her technical skills to the “desk nurse,” moving aside while my kind, caring co-workers did the IV’s, catheters, and dressing changes I could no longer do. I had a special computer with a magnifier, and after awhile, even that was hard to see. Colors became hard to distinguish; it was like I was looking thru dirty saran wrap all the time.
I had no choice but to do the best that I could, and then, after nearly 10 years of declining vision, I found hope.
Thanks to my donor and the work of Dr. Thomas Mauger at OSU, on September 16, 2003, I received a right cornea transplant. After the surgery, I found myself fascinated by bark on a tree and the brightness of colors. I could see my beautiful daughters – and I was surprised to see how much I aged when I could clearly see my face in the mirror!
My whole world changed, and I couldn’t have asked for more, but in July of 2004 I was given the gift of a left cornea by another heroic donor so I would have binary vision. It has been the greatest gift I could ever receive.
I am now pain free, no longer afraid to drive anywhere and I can do my job properly. I am sharp when reviewing charts and am the “go to” nurse to start IV’s, like I used to be. I was able to see my oldest daughter walk across the stage to accept her high school diploma and I look forward to being there to see my youngest daughter graduate in two years!
I don’t know who my donors were, but I will always be grateful to them, and to their families, who were able to look past their grief and honor their loved one’s request to be a donor. The cornea transplants didn’t save me from death but they gave me back my life and the ability to be a good mom and nurse.