Dear family of person who donated their cornea to my father:
First, the loss your family has suffered is unfair and I regret that you’ve had to suffer in this way. I am sorry. I don’t know any details, but I am a physician myself and I have seen the multitude of ways families experience loss in this world. I am sorry.
Second, thank you. For as long as I can remember, my father has lived on the thin edge between blindness and sight. This strange disease he has – kerataconus – started affecting his vision in his late teens. My dad is one of 8 kids and he is the youngest male. When he got called in for his first transplant in his early 20s, my grandmother and grandfather were on a road trip out west and my grandmother made them turn around and come right home to be with my dad for that first procedure. He subsequently had two more transplant procedures and I have vague memories of my giant father wearing a patch at various spots in my childhood. Essentially, Dad could choose to look out of his right or left eye, but rarely both. When he coached my brother’s football team, the players in the huddle would look at each other perplexed because this very large man was yelling specific directions, but no one could tell to whom. My father’s sight, or lack thereof, is the stuff of lore, laughter and anxiety in our family.
Your family member is my father’s fourth cornea donor. Each transplant has allowed my father to do more and more with his life. Go to college. Run a business. Coach my brother and I in various sports. Watch us live our lives. Help us through school. The opportunities I have had in life are in no small part thanks to the people who donated their eyes to my father. It may seem like something small to you, but it has been everything to our family. Luckily, though it is a heritable condition, no one else in our family appears to have keratoconus.
Before this donation, his ability to drive has been under threat due to the combination of cataracts and a scarred cornea. Driving is a huge part of how he makes a living. He was spending most of his energy on seeing and it was exhausting. We hope with this fourth transplant, he will be able to see his way to retirement without undue stress.
There isn’t good solace to be had when you’ve what you’ve lost. I know my father’s sight is minor comfort. But there it is.
Thank you again,