My story begins at birth when I was diagnosed with a disease known as Congenital Glaucoma. This left me without sight in my left eye, and with almost no sight in my right eye. My family tried to seek a cure for my blindness and over the course of my childhood, had more than two dozen surgeries to try to give me some sight. I never wanted my blindness to define me, however, and so I committed myself to accomplishing all that I wanted to do regardless of having vision. I learned to use Braille, walk with a cane and use other computer technology to assist me in school. I graduated from high school with honors and enrolled in college to become a teacher. While my life was not without challenges, I worked hard to make my dreams come true.
I feel that God has blessed my life in so many ways, one of which came in 2001 when I was introduced to a doctor who thought that a cornea transplant might help me gain some sight. I was overwhelmed by the possibility. So, in June of 2001 I underwent a cornea transplant in my right eye. Unfortunately, the surgery was not a success. I was disappointed but the doctor wasn't about to give up. I went onto a waiting list for a transplant in January of 2002 and on May 7, 2002, I got the call that a cornea was available. I remember, so vividly what it was like when I was able to take the patch off for the first time. Everything was so bright. While it takes months to fully recover from a cornea transplant and everything was blurry, I could see someone next to me. The voice said, "Can you see me?" and I could, it was my mother. It was the first time I saw the face of another human being clearly.
The recovery was a whirlwind. For twenty-two years I'd lived with my family and spent time with friends but never knew what anything looked like. I had to learn to "see" everything with my eye instead of recognizing it by touch or sound. Colors were so bright, my family was so beautiful, picking up a book and reading was empowering. Most special of all though, was seeing Jeremy, the man that would eventually become my husband. I went on to graduate from college, secure a seventh grade English teaching position in Wisconsin and begin to plan my wedding. Jeremy and I were married on a beautiful August day in 2004. As a little girl I dreamed about my wedding day, but never thought I'd be able to see it for myself. God had heard my unspoken prayers.
In 2005 I gave birth to our first daughter, Nevaeh. There are no words to express what it was like to gaze down at my daughter's beautiful face, her big bright eyes... I lived for most of my life thinking I'd never know the faces of my children. In 2007, again we were blessed to welcome another child, a son, McKail. Again, I felt so blessed.
In 2008, while pregnant with my third child, my vision suddenly failed. While I grieved for the loss of my vision, I also recognized how fortunate I had been to have experienced sight for six years. My doctor was not about to give up and, shortly after my daughter was born, she attempted repeat transplants, two of which failed. In March, 2009, however, I again was able to know sight again thanks to another cornea transplant. The first thing I wanted to see was my daughter, Nadirah, who was already four months old when I regained sight. She smiled at me as I held her close and my heart melted. Since then, we've welcomed three more children, McKellen, Namarah and Nadianna to our busy family. I also fulfilled another of my dreams, of earning a Ph.D in Curriculum and Instruction (Education). Our family just moved to Omaha from Wisconsin in July and we're excited to begin a new chapter of our lives here. I live each day in honor of the donors and their families that shared the gift of sight with me. We may be strangers in this life, but they are close to my heart always.