Patrick Pruitt had his sight restored with a cornea transplant when he was just 6 years old.
Today, Patrick is celebrating 30 years with the same cornea. In that time, he has shared his story with countless others, served on the Eversight Michigan Advisory Board and pursued a challenging career in academia. He holds a doctorate degree in neuroscience and researches aging brain connectivity.
"Those 30 years of enhanced vision—that's the gift I was given. Everything from the big events like graduation to the smaller personal moments, like seeing a smile on my wife's face," he says. "I can go hiking and overlook vistas, and I can just walk down the street to see my neighbors. It's a huge spectrum, and it's a gift too monumental for words."
Before his transplant, Patrick didn't know enough to be scared or worried about his vision. He was just a kid learning to read, playing outside and making friends.
He lived in the present—as kindergarteners do—but his vision deteriorated further. Eventually, he could no longer play outside safely, and it became harder and harder for him to read.
"Sight really helps to provide you a sense of place. Having that compromised is unsettling—it rattles you a bit."
When doctors recommended a cornea transplant for Patrick, his parents were the ones who worried.
"We were not confident that he'd ever get his vision back. We thought, 'We're going to have a son who's blind in one eye forever,'" says Dave Pruitt, Patrick's dad. "There are worse things, but it was still life-changing."
The surgery came and went. Patrick's vision and quality of life were restored. As a kid, he had a superficial understanding of his donor and their family. But as he grew up, Patrick had a gradual awakening about the magnitude of gift he received.
"Putting myself in the shoes of my donor's family and acknowledging the incredibly difficult time they were facing," Patrick Pruitt says. "I could finally deeply appreciate the strength, courage and kindness that led them to make the decision to donate."
This newfound appreciation soon extended to all donors and their families. As a teen, Patrick began sharing his story with local Lions Clubs and found a sense of community.
"Receiving such an incredible gift a young age helped shape my world view. We can't all just be self-sufficient and focus on ourselves," he says. "There are people in our community who need our help—through the selfless gift of eye donation or otherwise. It's not just valuable—it is critical that we reach out and help when people are in need."
Join the donor registry today and talk to your loved ones about organ, eye and tissue donation. Your pledge may one day transform the lives of people like Patrick.
"Sight is something that we tend to take for granted until it goes away. To lose it and then gain it again really puts it in perspective how powerful it is in our lives."