Every summer, I spent time with my family in Florida on the beach. I had always worn glasses, but it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I discovered how poor my vision had become. While on the beach, my aunt suggested we feed the seagulls over in a particular area. I could not see the seagulls she was talking about. This is when we realized something was seriously wrong with my eyesight.
After visiting the eye doctor, I was diagnosed with Keratoconus, a degenerative condition of the cornea. The doctor informed my family and me that I would need a cornea transplant immediately. Because there were not a lot of young cornea donors at that time, I was placed on a waiting list. I was scared of having the surgery, and I did not fully understand what needing a donor meant. My doctor helped me understand what the operation would be like and explained the donation process. I underwent my first cornea transplant in 1988; I was only in 11th grade.
Three years later, I required a cornea transplant in my other eye. I had my surgery done at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill hospital as a sophomore in college. Because of the increase in donations, I did not have to wait for my second surgery. My doctors were able to find a match right away.
Because of the daily effort of DMV Examiners asking North Carolinians if they would like to register to be a donor, I was able to regain my vision and lead a normal life. Even in just three years, I saw the immediate positive impact of more people registering as donors. Two people made the choice to give the gift of sight, and I cannot fully express my gratitude to them and their families.