Written by Paul Daniels, Cornea Transplant Recipient, Husband, and Father
It was late June, 2010, when the poison ivy rash spread from my torso and arms to my forehead and left cheek. By the time I realized that this rash was different, the shingles had already begun attack my optic nerve and left eye socket. A journey that brought deep clarity and understanding of an all too familiar phrase, “You don’t know how much something means to you until it is gone” had begun.
Those That Keep On Giving
As much as I am willing to share with you my journey to save the sight in my left eye, this story isn’t really about me. It isn’t about the multitude of doctor’s visits, hospital stays, emotional ups and downs, medications, or discomfort I experienced as a result of my injury. A time in my life filled with people who selflessly gave, and continue to give, in a way that cannot be measured by words or actions; this is a story about an anonymous family that selflessly gave in one of their greatest moments of need, and the people who cared for and surrounded me in a moment of my own greatest need.
As my eyesight continued to deteriorate, my family and friends were faithful to stand by my side and love me well - supporting, encouraging, and praying for me. Surrounded by a host of talented doctors and nurses from various medical disciplines, my medical team was diligent to search for treatments that would slow the expanding corneal scar. I was blessed by this very team of wonderful caregivers that helped me remain hopeful AND to drink deeply of each moment. Not wanting to miss a single moment, I began to pay close attention: soaking in the beauty of our daughter in her prom dress, watching the skill of our son as he ran cross country, noticing the smiles of loved ones as they howl at a silly joke over the holidays, and catching glimpses of my wife’s beautiful gray-green eyes as much as I possibly could.
When Becoming a Recipient Becomes a Reality
Through a chain of events, people, and, “chance encounters” I was introduced to Dr. Walter Beebe of Cornea Associates of Texas. He and his staff explained the different procedures available, including a cornea transplant from a deceased donor. In theory I understood that the cornea I would receive would be from a human being that had passed away, but to be honest I was more concerned about the outcome of the surgery than I was for the donor that was making it possible.
Then, on the day of the surgery, things changed. This “human being” became much more personalized as the doctors and nurses prayed with me before surgery. They prayed for the success of the surgery and recovery. They prayed for my family and I. And then they prayed for the family of the donor who had died, and in so doing, had donated a cornea to me. My donor was a real person.
Not long after the surgery, I wrote a letter to the family of the donor expressing my sincere gratitude for the gift of sight that their loved one had so selflessly given to me. I don't know that I can adequately express the way I feel for such a priceless gift, but it is truly a gift that words cannot describe.
New Sight, New Perspective
Nine months after my surgery on a flight from Dallas to New York, I sat next to Todd and Tara Storch – Taylor’s parents. During that flight I learned about Taylor's story, the Storch Family’s journey, and how personal was the gift that Taylor made. Following that moment, I saw and felt the full weight of their selfless act of giving.
Taylor loved and is loved by her family. I believe my donor loved and was loved as well. With a new perspective I’ve come to realize that this gift I have received is so much more than a generous act by a loved one. Perhaps it was your loved one. Perhaps your love one was able to gift life to someone else. If so, please accept my profound thanks. Because your loved one Regifted Life, others have Renewed Health. Personally, I can see. And not only because I can see - but because I can testify to the impact giving life makes when it's received - I am registered as an organ donor, dedicated to Regifting Life when that day comes, if given the opportunity to.
I now believe you don’t know how much something is worth until you give it away.
Paul and his wife of 20 years have two children and live in North Texas. He is beyond grateful for his renewed gift of sight.
(Please note: This story was originally posted on the Taylor's Gift blog in April 2014.)