When Lee Elmore failed her driver’s test and could no longer see street signs while navigating for her husband, Larry, she knew it was time to make the paramount decision about eye surgery.
Larry could also tell that Lee’s vision was gradually getting worse at a more rapid pace.
“Particularly on trips and things like that, where she would continually point out that she couldn’t read the route signs,” he said. “She was sort of my navigator at times and when she couldn’t read the signs, that was a bit of a problem.”
In her early 50s, Lee was diagnosed with Fuchs’ dystrophy, a disease that causes the cells lining the inner surface of the cornea to gradually die. Lee’s grandmother also suffered from Fuchs’ and after watching her go through several unsuccessful transplant surgeries in the 1960s and eventually becoming functionally blind, Lee was apprehensive when surgery became her last resort.
“Her eyes were just milky white, and she had great difficulty with that,” Lee said of her grandmother’s condition. “I was very nervous once I was diagnosed and thought, ‘Oh, this is not going to be good.’”
Thankfully, Lee got reassurance from her surgeon, Dr. Peter McGannon at the Cleveland Clinic, about the bilateral corneal transplant surgery that was recommended, allowing her to feel safe and comfortable enough to make an informed decision. At age 75, she opted to have the surgery.
The cornea tissues Lee received for her transplants were made possible by the selfless decision two people made to become eye, organ and tissue donors. Eversight facilitated the tissue recovery process in conjunction with our partners at Lifebanc, including ensuring the tissue was suitable for transplantation.
One of the many things that proved to Lee that her vision had greatly improved was witnessing something as simple as a bird flying. Lee remembers sitting at her kitchen table and looking out the window, when a small yellow finch flew into a bush in her backyard. She couldn’t believe that she was able to see something so small at such a great distance – she was never able to see that before.
"It has greatly changed my life. I was able to pass my driver's test and I'm able to function so much better and enjoy all the birds that now come into the yard."
Lee’s confidence has also been restored as she is now able to do and see things that she couldn’t before. On top of that, Larry got his navigator back and now has too many pictures of birds to know what to do with!
“It’s almost every day where she will say, ‘Wow, look at that!’”
Lee and Larry are beyond grateful for the life-changing gifts Lee received from two donors. “It brings tears to my eyes, that somebody would be that gracious and kind,” Lee said. “Thank you, I am so grateful that they did that and that they were giving of themselves, and they shared their family with me. I’m amazed at their generosity and kindness.”
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