“Any time you can tell somebody how peoples’ lives are changed by the gift of a cornea, I hope they listen to you and take it seriously, because it’s truly amazing. It is life changing… I get up every morning and I look out the window and it is absolutely a beautiful thing to be able to see. To me, it’s a miracle.”
Joe, Cornea Recipient
As Valentine’s Day approaches, many people will be giving their sweetheart a card or perhaps some chocolates as they celebrate the love in their life. For Joe Johnson, he will be celebrating the anniversary of his cornea surgery and the generous donor family who gave him the chance to see again. As Joe says, “I’m a faithful person and I say a prayer for my donors. They are always, always in my prayers. So in gratitude I thank God for them, for giving them the wisdom to check that box on their license.”
Several years ago, Joe’s vision in his right eye was getting worse and worse due to Fuchs Dystrophy. As his sight deteriorated, he found himself unable to read even the large “E” at the top of the eye chart in the doctor’s office. Everything seemed like it was always in a blur. Joe relayed how scared he felt as the world literally closed in around him while his vision diminished.Read More +
During retirement, Joe was determined to remain active in his service to the community and felt he could use his life experience to help guide students as a substitute teacher. Early on, Joe was able to read the course materials and see the faces of the teenagers in his classroom even if they didn’t always appreciate his humor. “They don’t get my sarcasm and I don’t get theirs, so it works out well”, Joe says with a chuckle. I think they find me as a bit of relief. I’m not there to grade them, I’m just there trying to help them. If they’re having problems, problems with a lot of different things, I’m able to be the go-between them and the teacher or administration.” While Joe found satisfaction in those classroom faces, over time they were getting harder to see.
“My quality of vision was terrible, and it was getting worse and worse. It was either have the surgery or eventually not be able to see it all.”
And so on Valentine’s Day a few years ago, a generous donor and their family gave Joe the gift Cupid could not – the gift of renewed sight. As Joe says, “It’s just unbelievable! You read about transplants and you see it and you talk about it, but when you actually have it happen to you, you just say, “Wow!”… It’s just unbelievable that someone decided they’d share their sight (corneas) so that I’d get to see. It’s a wonderful thing. It’s very personal. I can read, I can see colors. My vision seems to be getting better as time goes by, which is a great gift. it’s just overwhelming. Sight-saving is life-saving.”
VisionGift brings the world into focus.
We restore lives, promote healing, and drive innovation in ocular research. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, we rely on individuals, partner organizations, and foundations to support and promote our work. We invite you to get involved in any way that works for you.
Make a Financial Contribution
Your contribution will go towards making cornea transplants possible as well as advancing the safety and efficacy of cornea transplantation for people around the world.
You can give quickly and easily online or you can mail a check to:
2201 SE 11th Avenue
Portland, OR 97214-5303
We welcome and honor memorial donations made in honor of a loved one.
We gratefully accept planned gifts and donations made via donor-advised funds. Learn more about making a gift in your estate plan here or contact Chris Stoeger by email at Chris@visiongift.org or by phone at 503.808.7002.
Share Your Story
From loss can come hope. Sharing stories are an inspirational way to honor any donor. That’s why we encourage donor families and cornea recipients to share how eye donation has touched their lives. For more information about how to share your story, please call us at (503) 808-7070.
Robby Holmes was just 19 years old when a BB pellet forever changed how he would view the world. Though his is a story with its fair share of pain and difficulty, it is one worth telling for it is also a story of perseverance, forgiveness, empowerment, and community. As is often the case with tales that bear repeating, degrees of chance and circumstance have conspired to create a story with deeper meaning and a more satisfying resolution involving both men, a new non-profit organization, the local community, and VisionGift.
15 years ago Robby was driving through his home town of Ida Grove, Iowa when a stainless steel BB pellet, fired from the side of the road by a young man, struck Robby’s right eye. The damage done by the ricocheting projectile necessitated multiple surgeries in the intervening years, starting with his first cornea transplant and leading up to his recent successful operation this past summer for the glaucoma which developed 8 years ago.Read More +
Never one to take the “poor me” philosophy on the events of those days, Robby has harnessed a natural enthusiasm for life and poured it into his passions of music and community. His gregarious nature and kind spirit are immediately evident upon meeting him and have helped Robby become a respected member of his local community, through his community music promotion efforts. Given the impact of his work for local artists, it is of no surprise that his community responded to his developing plight surrounding paying for additional eye surgery.
Unfortunately, the development of Robby’s glaucoma over the past eight years, in addition to causing chronic pain, was threatening to irreparably damage his vision. In addition, the integrity of his first cornea transplant had been compromised by these developments and, pending the outcome of his recent glaucoma surgery, Robby would need a second cornea transplant. Without medical insurance, these were operations which Robby would not be able to afford.
In just a few short weeks that summer, during several fundraising concerts promoted by Robby’s community awareness organization, his friends, and their friends, raised over eight thousand dollars of the necessary twelve thousand needed for his upcoming procedures. Upon learning of this dedicated community reaction to the plight of one of its own, VisionGift stepped in to donate the cornea for Robby’s operation.
We promised you a story of reconciliation and inspiration, and if the public outpouring of community support doesn’t warm your heart, hopefully this will. On a chance visit to his hometown, Robby had a chance encounter with the grandmother of the man who shot him. In typical Robby fashion, he asked this woman to pass along the message to her kin that he harbored no ill will or animosity toward the young man and wished him only better times ahead. It wasn’t one day later that the two men shared a telephone conversation in which his attacker told Robby of the weight lifted from his shoulders by those words. In times subsequent, that individual has started his own non-profit organization that serves under-privileged children.
Register to Become a Donor
Did you know that registering to become an organ and tissue donor can save the lives of eight people and enhance the lives of up to fifty more? When you consider this fact, the gift of donation becomes even more profound.
It is a federal regulation that all families be offered the opportunity to donate when a loved dies, though this is obviously a difficult time for family members to make decisions like this. You can ease the burden on them by making the decision for yourself and registering as donor. Just be sure to share your decision with your family members, and find out what their own wishes about donation are.
For additional information, feel free to call us at (503) 808-7070. To register to become a donor, visit www.donatelifenw.org or register when you renew your license at the DMV. One decision you make now could change the lives of many.Become a donor
You can support VisionGift by donating your talents. We’re specifically seeking pro bono assistance from architects, lawyers, accountants, web designers, and fundraisers.
Spread the Word
Talk to your friends and family about your decision to become an organ, eye and tissue donor and encourage them to sign up at www.donatelifenw.org or the next time they renew their driver’s license.