Early in the morning on September 14th, 2015, Carly woke up with a headache and light sensitivity in her eyes. After deciding to wear glasses instead of putting contacts in, she took the bus to school and tried to ignore the pain. But it became too much, and only about 30 minutes after arriving at school, Carly was at the nurse’s office being sent home. After going to urgent care later that night and being diagnosed with a corneal abrasion, she thought she would be back at school within the next week. However, after her ophthalmologist put a patch on her eye, it ulcerated and became an infection that left her blind in her right eye.
Carly was sent to Scheie where she met Dr. Wu, and eventually Dr. Orlin, her current ophthalmologist. Carly missed about six weeks of school for constant doctor appointments and hourly eye drops, and was home-schooled by two different teachers so she wouldn’t fall behind. After the infection was completely healed in January 2016, life went back to normal, or as normal as it could be with a scar over her right eye affecting her vision. Then, in February 2017, Carly was given the option of getting a transplant. After some deliberation, the next month on March 15th, 2017, Dr. Orlin performed a corneal transplant on Carly.
“The next morning when they took the patch off, my eye was the clearest it had been in two years” Carly said. “It was an amazing feeling to be able to see clearly again.”
Now fitted with a scleral lens 2 ½ years after transplant, Carly said there is nothing that she can’t do.
“I can wear any pair of sunglasses again, which is such a small thing to be excited about but I really am,” Carly said. “The little victories that I have won back after having my transplant make all the eye drops and the loose stitches worth it.”
Now, Carly is a junior at Saint Joseph’s University, where she studies International Relations and English. Currently working as a summer intern at Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley, Carly wants to stress the importance of signing up on the donor registry, and the impact that being an eye, tissue and organ donor can have.
“One person can save eight lives and benefit so many more, which is an amazing thing,” Carly said. “It is one of the most difficult decisions to make, but the impact is felt by recipients every single day.”
For our next Favorite Friend Friday, we would like to introduce you to Michael and Kathleen Cruz. We first connected with Mr. Cruz when he reached out to his donor families with a letter of gratitude. Then, a few weeks ago the Cruzes came across Carly’s transplant story that was shared. Michael told us, “as a recipient I can tell you first hand that I am overwhelmed with gratitude to my donor’s family. I have been blessed with gifts from two great families. I can’t thank them enough for my sight. I can now see my garden, the flowers in my yard. I am truly grateful.” And we knew we had to learn more. This is Michael Cruz’s story, as told by his wife Kathleen:
Our story started around 4 years ago. Michael went in for his year eye exam. Our regular doctor detected something wrong with the cornea in both of his eyes, and referred us to a specialist. Lots of tests and visits later, things just kept getting worse. One day we were going down the shore when Michael said he had clouds in his eyes. Of course he did not tell me this until later.
My husband just retired from his role as a shipping supervisor for a glass company for 41 years. When his eye problems began, it was especially hard since most of his work was on the computer.
We made another appointment with the specialist, and were sent to Wills Eye. Immediately after this appointment, Michael was scheduled for cornea transplant surgery on his worse eye. We were scared, to say the least.
His first surgery was performed last November. It was an extremely long recovery. There was a lot of lying down, a lot of doing nothing, a lot of drops, and weekly appointments.
His second surgery was this past April, which was sooner than planned, but his condition was worsening. We felt much better this time, because we knew what to expect.
My husband loves his yard, his garden and flowers, his television, and all things nature. If he lost his ability to enjoy these things, it would have been terrible. I am the designer, and Michael makes things happen. We are a good team. I love to cook and bake, and now Michael is getting into baking too.
He is such a wonderful person who is always ready to help those in need. The loss of his sight would have been life changing for everyone. We are truly so blessed to have such wonderful doctors and donor families. We have learned so much through all of this. It is a miracle. Bless everyone involved. They all have given us a new and beautiful life.