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lifelong struggle for good visionFrom the time I was a teenager, I realized how important the gift of sight was.

Most members of my mother’s family had cataracts. My grandmother, who died in 1944, was practically blind for the last six years or so of her life. It was said she was too old to consider surgery. My mother’s sight was severely impaired by the time she was 60. In 1950, she underwent cataract surgery on one eye and then had to lie flat on her back with no movement for two weeks or more. The surgery was not successful, but she tried it on the other eye, thinking progress had been made in the few years between. That one really didn’t help either, and she was nearly blind for the last 10 years of her life. She also had shingles behind her eyes which never cleared up. Therefore, my mother and I were always very supportive of eye organizations.

When I was about 2 years old, I was apparently bumping into things and very irritable at times. My mother, who graduated as a nurse from Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore during World War I, knew a renowned eye man in that city, and I was taken to him. He found my left eye with very poor eyesight and turning in. Corrective lenses helped a lot, but I have never been without glasses since the age of 3. With glasses, however, I had good eyesight, especially in my “master eye,” and I won several Delaware State Trapshooting championships. It was not until I was given an eye test in the Army Air Force, however, that I realized I had no depth perception. Signing a waiver allowed me to continue flying during World War II.

In the mid 1980’s my sight was deteriorating, and frequent prescription changes were attempting to keep up with it. Dr. Robert Abel was recommended, and he performed successful implant surgery on both eyes in 1988. This seemed a great improvement, but toward the late 1990’s my vision was deteriorating again. He recommended a cornea transplant on my “good eye,” which took place in April 1998. My sight again improved dramatically, and I sought to find out from whom the cornea came. I learned it was a person about 30 years old from the Cleveland area. I wrote a letter of thanks to the family.

With reasonably good sight and the passage of time, we tend to forget what it might have been like before these wonderful advances. After 11 years, I am assured the transplanted cornea is still healthy. What a great gift I’ve had from the scientific advances, and the experts who practice them.

Thank you, one and all.        
–Tom M.

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