Aging: Donors, Transplants and Quality of Life

Apr 21st, 2010 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

As early as mid high school, my vision revealed a strange and troubling problem for me.  I began by having to have frequent refractions and changes in my prescription for glasses.  At first, I enjoyed it because I liked experimenting with new styles of frames, which I then thought helped make me look more sophisticated.  I did not realize the cost issues involved nor the implications to my declining vision. 

In late high school, early college I was told by the first opthamologist I saw that someday I would probably be facing a corneal transplant.  Like many at a young age, I was not prepared to deal with the implications of such information.  The physician informed that I had a condition known as keratoconus.  That simply means that, at my birth in 1938, I was one of 100,000 who would require a transplant to correct the condition.  The condition is one in which the cornea becomes cone shaped and vision is severely impaired and can be lost, if not corrected by transplant. 

In my case, three people have died in order for me to see.  You can imagine how I must feel about issues of transplant surgery, organ donors and such. My first transplant came when I was under 30 and not totally appreciative of all the implications.  A couple of years later, in my left eye, I underwent my second transplant.  And, the year of my retirement, 30 years later, on a Memorial Day weekend, a young man, who was killed in an automobile accident, was the donor of my third transplant, the second in my right eye.  How excited I was to get the call, but how despairing and sad that weekend must have been to that young man’s family. 

Now, thirteen years later, I am due for a check up by another opthamologist who will hopefully  help me with sharper vision.  I am beginning to struggle to see the print on the computer screen.  I know I will really be in trouble when interstate and street signs become more difficult to decipher.  The opthamologist of 13 years ago virtually assured me that that cornea, because the donor was so young, should last me the rest of my life.  I still pray so.

 The moral of this story is that each of us may be  on the cusp of encountering a physical abnormality, an inherited deficiency that we never knew about.  Check ups, regular examinations, sensitivity to health history are extremely important issues. Making certain that annual checks ups are a part of your routine cannot be overemphasized.  Recognizing how others may need to be, or may be willing to be, ready to help you have a whole and complete life may help you to be ready to offer your organs upon your death.  It is a gift that allows another to live a whole and complete life as well.



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