July 20 – A Beautiful Cornea

by Mary Jo Doig

The nurse places my IV, explains what will happen, and wraps me in two warm blankets. The anesthesiologist follows, telling me he’s giving me Rohypnol, the drug Michael Jackson used. I raise my eyebrows, “But I’m going to have a better outcome, right?”

He chuckles. “Yes, you are,” explaining, “you go under swiftly but you quickly become conscious again. I’ll use this when the doctor gives you an eye injection to numb it.”

“Okay,” I say.

He leaves, then Dr. O arrives, smiling, a blue cap covering her dark hair. “Good morning, how are you feeling this morning?”

“I’m fine and so ready for this,” I say happily.

She questions me about any illness symptoms that could prohibit our plan and finds none. I ask about the donated cornea. She smiles joyfully and says, “It’s a beautiful cornea.”

What moving words. Tears fill my eyes as I ask how I can thank the donor’s family. She replies, “I can give you the donor bank address, and you can send a letter that they’ll forward to the family, who may or may not contact you.”

“That’s what I’ll do,” I say.

She nods, and within minutes I am in the OR at the University of Virginia surrounded by a professional team.

Eight months ago I had routine cataract surgery that exacerbated my dormant corneal disease, Fuchs Dystrophy. My then-doctor counseled I might have complications. I did. Since then I had viewed my world through a cornea seemingly covered with waxed paper. It was my worst nightmare: I was visually impaired.

Weeks slipped by as I retired from my career, moved two counties away, and found new medical providers. Dr. O–Leslie Olsakovsky–is highly regarded in my state and, after we consulted, I felt deep confidence in her ability; also the intelligence and compassion she emanated.

Now, awake for nearly all the forty-minute surgery, I listen to her efficient interactions with her team. I ask an occasional question, articulating with difficulty due to anesthesia, and she answers. Sometimes I feel pressure and, sensing this, she asks the anesthesiologist for a slight increase. Soon she is done.

I recover for an hour and John takes me home, where I lay supine for 24 hours so the cornea will well-adhere. Lying on my back becomes a deep discipline and, frequently during that long vigil, I silently convey gratitude to my donor for our sacred bond.

The following morning, Dr. O looks into my eye and says, “It looks beautiful. You are doing very well and you can anticipate a dramatic change in your vision during the next twenty-four hours when the air bubble dissolves. ”

This morning, 50 hours post-surgery, I cover my left eye and look out at my world. For the first time in eight months the brilliant blue sky, the lush greens of trees and grass, the lemon yellow of my favorite day lilies–all are exquisitely clear.

Dearest donor, we see these miracles together now. You are forever part of me and I, you. Thank you. 

Mary Jo Doig is an avid reader, writer, editor, and aspiring blogger. She lives in a small, eclectic town in Albemarle County, Virginia where she has an exquisite view from her writing room window.


7 responses to “July 20 – A Beautiful Cornea

  1. What a beautiful tribute to your donor, and an inspiring story of how you persevered through a scary and difficult challenge life threw at you. Thanks for bringing a bright ray of sunshine into a rainy day here.

  2. Mary Jo, my eyes are still damp from the tears of gratitude your story provoked. What a miracle that so many sight problems can be deferred. After undergoing three eye surgeries myself a couple of years ago your story was especially poignant. I look forward to reading more of the stories you can see well enough to keep writing!

  3. Caroline ziel

    Mary Jo–What a beautiful story of your journey to vision. I’d like to think that somehow the donor knows how precious the gift of a cornea is to you, and all the good that will come through you because of it. You are a gift! caroline

  4. Thank you Cathy, Sharon, and Caroline. I’m in the process of writing a letter to the family of my donor (along with my story) and am hoping they might like to meet. If this happens, I’ll write that story, too.

  5. Jinni Turkelson

    Mary Jo, so happy for you to have your clear vision back! My Mom had a corneal transplant also but it was several years ago and theyhave improved the way they do surgery since then. Back in the dark ages, when I was a student nurse, eye surgery patients had to be supine for two weeks with sandbags holding their heads in position!

  6. Dear Mary Jo, What a wonderful joy to read of your experience! I used to work in opthalmology, so I understand what you suffered through and where you travelled to be where this journey is now. I am so very please for you and your beautiful corneal gift!

  7. Pingback: July 4 – A One Woman’s Day Thank You | One Woman's Day

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