Bruce Katz always thought losing his hearing would be the worst sense to lose. He’s a musician – he sings, he plays the piano and the flute, so the idea of losing his hearing was the worst thing he imagined could happen to him.
That is, until his vision declined so rapidly that he became legally blind in one eye and struggled with his quality of life.
Father of four and soon to be grandfather of eight, Bruce Katz lives a fulfilling life of family and adventure. But a few years ago, his vision began to keep him from enjoying his life.
Bruce needed glasses at five years old, and when they could no longer help him see he needed cataract surgery in 2019.
“I had the surgery, and it was absolutely fantastic,” Bruce said. “I felt like a kid again. I was able to see colors normally.”
His recovery was going well at first, until he was driving down a road looking at the trees. He noticed he couldn’t actually see the trees – they were blurry.
His doctor prescribed eye drops, but the vision in his right eye kept declining.
“My vision went from having a little bit of blurriness to losing color, to not being able to see very well at all,” he said.
His next stop was to a retina specialist who told him his retina was inflamed and swollen from the cataract surgery. Bruce was prescribed a pill that was placed in the struggling eye. His retina recovered after a year and a half of treatment.
Unfortunately, his cornea was also affected by the cataract surgery and subsequent treatments, to the point where he would need a cornea transplant.
“When the eye swelling receded, the cornea crumpled like plastic wrap and my vision became 20/2,000,” Bruce said. "I was legally blind in that eye and barely legal in the other eye.”
As his vision continued to worsen, Bruce felt disabled. He was afraid to park his car because he couldn’t see the other cars properly. He couldn’t see the changing colors of leaves in the fall and when he traveled with his wife, Mary Jo, he couldn’t enjoy himself because he constantly felt unsteady and like he couldn’t appreciate the sights around him.
In September of 2020, Bruce received a cornea transplant by Scott Wagenberg, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. He finally began to see clearly toward the end of that year.
“As the year went on, I was able to see more and more,” he said. “If it wasn't for that corneal transplant, I'd be pretty much blind.”
When Bruce learned he would be receiving a new cornea and would be able to see again, he was ecstatic and grateful.
“I wasn't thinking about the donor until after the surgery,” Bruce said. “That's when I realized that the cornea wasn't something you stamp from a machine, it came from a donor, and that's when I really felt grateful and awed that somebody would actually do that.”
After Bruce’s sight was restored, he was able to drive again, experience vivid colors, see not only the trees on the side of the road, but the individual branches. On top of it all, he no longer had to wear glasses. In recovery, Bruce was excited to learn what things he could see again.
“To me, it felt like an adventure,” he said. “I'd wake up in the morning and say, ‘What am I going to be able to see better today than I could see yesterday?’”
Because of the selfless decision one person made to become a donor, Bruce was able to experience the joys of life again, both big and small. His donor inspired him to register as an eye, organ and tissue donor as well while he was renewing his license.
“I'm eternally grateful for this ability to be able to see again,” he said. “I always thought that loss of hearing would be worse than losing your sight. But I'll tell you, a loss of seeing, that is such a sin. It takes you out of life.”
Bruce believes donation is a miracle and that organizations like Eversight play a crucial part in facilitating the gift of sight.
“Without Eversight, there'd be so many people in the country that would not have a good quality of life. Eversight brings us a quality of life; me and everybody else who experiences this gift.”