An average kidney transplant lasts between 10-15 years. The kidney Ken received from his mother has lasted over 45 years -- still going strong and looking forward to the future.
“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.”
Today, Joe is clearly on the brighter side of life. You can hear it in his voice - the gratitude for his renewed vision and the beauty that vision enables him to see is threaded through his cheerful tenor. But Joe wasn't always so upbeat, in fact his declining vision was a heavy weight that made him fearful of a future that was literally dimming.
Joe's worries began several years ago when his ophthalmologist spotted a problem during a routine visit. Joe was told he had Fuchs Dystrophy, a corneal disease where the endothelium cells gradually die off. As more cells die off, fluid builds up and the cornea gets swollen and puffy, and one’s vision becomes cloudy. As a first response, Joe and his doctor agreed to monitor the situation and track the progress of the disease. Unfortunately, as with most cases of Fuchs Dystrophy, it got worse, and Joe noticed that life was getting darker and darker. As Joe recalls, “I had to use a flashlight around the house during the day just to look into closets and get things. I also noticed that driving at night became impossible. I was reticent to go out because my vision was falling off, my peripheral vision was falling off, my depth perception was falling off. At some point I just came to the realization that my life was changing.”
Finally, Joe had to admit to himself just how bad it was getting. As Joe sheepishly says, “I had to fess up to making some mistakes with my online banking, simply because of the decimal point getting put in the wrong spot. When you think you have a couple of hundred dollars in your checking account and then you suddenly find out you don't because your decimal point was put in the wrong spot…. you’re scrambling.”
Joe was then sent to a specialist who decided he needed a cornea transplant. While this seemed like a big next step, Joe was more than ready for a brighter road. As he says, “I was thinking to myself, you're going to have to change your whole way of life. You are not going to be able to do what you used to do. I was fighting depression at a couple of points. I was thinking to myself - I don't want this! I don't want it! And when I heard that there was something I could do about it, with a good success rate, that was a big pick me up.”
And what a "pick me up" it was! A couple of weeks after his transplant, Joe started to see clearly, even seeing at distances he had not seen before. And with this new vision came a new gratitude, as well as the realization that this gift was just that, a generous and selfless donation made by an individual Joe would never meet. As he says, “I never thought about the donor side until I was actually in the situation to be on the receiving end of it. It both humbles you and makes you very appreciative of the people who take the time…When you're able to take a part of another person, and actually use it to restore a life, it's an amazing experience.”
These days Joe finds his life getting back to normal again. He has returned to gardening, building and repairing things in his workshop and fly-fishing on trout streams in Western Pennsylvania. Joe sums it up best - “Any time you can tell somebody how people's 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.”
This story provided by Lions VisionGift on behalf of recipient, Joe Mascia.