At age 17, when Peter DeSarno was playing baseball his junior year of high school, he started noticing he was having some difficulty seeing the ball. It quickly became apparent that he was experiencing serious, rapid decline in his vision. After many trips to various eye specialists in New Jersey and New York, Peter was diagnosed with keratoconus, a condition that occurs when your cornea thins and gradually bulges outward into a cone shape.
With the help of many pairs of specialty crafted contact lenses, Peter’s vision was temporarily restored. This allowed him the ability to attend college and earn his undergraduate accounting degree. However, after working long hours in the first couple of years of his career, the specialty crafted contact lenses were no longer effective.
It was recommended by his doctor to have cornea transplants in both of his eyes. At the age of 24, he received two corneas that restored his vision and forever changed his life.
“My first transplant in my left eye occurred on March first of that year,” Peter said. “The gift of that donor cornea came to me with the assistance of the Lions Eye Bank of Texas. The second transplant in my right eye occurred later that year on Dec. 9. That donor cornea was procured with the assistance of the Lions Eye Bank of New Jersey, now Eversight.”
The cornea tissues Peter received for his transplants were made possible by the selfless decision two people made to become eye donors. That decision allowed Peter to see the details of his wife’s face, watch his three daughters grow up and be able to have a career over the last 25 years in public, corporate and nonprofit accounting.
"I think it's heroic that someone could be so generous and selfless. Equally noble is that a donor family can make such a compassionate and giving decision at such a difficult time."
Today, Peter's eyes can see clearly because of two strangers' gifts. All he knows about them is that they came from two loving, caring and generous families who, in their darkest hour, displayed an incredible amount of love and compassion in providing him with the gift of sight.
Not only did Peter's selfless donors give him the gift of sight, but they also gave him the gift of perspective.
"While I have unfortunately not been able to make contact with the loved ones of my two donor corneas, I know that those donors and their families were willing to help a fellow human being that they didn't even know," Peter said.
"These acts in my mind are among the most beautiful things that one human can do for another in this world," he said. "I will forever be grateful for the vision that my donors have provided me as well as the organizations like Eversight that helped to play a role."
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