Nikara McNeely woke up one morning and couldn’t see. Everything was blurry. Normally when she woke up with blurry vision, it would clear up quickly. But something was very different this time, and Nikara was scared.
Several years before, UAB ophthalmologist and Advancing Sight Network board member, Dr. Tyler Hall, diagnosed Nikara with Fuchs’ Dystrophy, an eye disease that can cause pain and worsening vision. The disease didn’t disrupt her life at the time, so Nikara carried on with her career and her family and didn’t even think about the diagnosis. She graduated from Quantico, got married, began working for the Drug Enforcement Administration, and had two children.
Eventually Nikara was forced to deal with the reality of her eye diseases, and the only cure for her vision loss was a cornea transplant. With a thriving career and an active family life, Nikara remembers thinking, “What if this doesn’t work? What about my job? And what about my children,” she wondered. “I can’t be the parent I need to be and teach my children the things they need to learn from me if I can’t see.”
“Corneal transplants are typically very successful,” says Dr. Hall, who was Nikara’s surgeon. “We’re grateful for the gift of donated corneal tissue because there is currently no substitute for this tissue in transplants. Without the generosity of eye donors, surgeries like Nikara’s would not be possible.”
Nikara is grateful for her cornea donor’s gift, which made a significant positive impact on Nikara and her family.
“When I think about how I am able to pour into my children today—in a way I wouldn’t have been able if not for my transplant surgery, my donor has actually impacted many generations,” says Nikara. “How I am a mother to my children today will influence how they parent their children in generations to come.”
There’s no doubt that eye donors make all the difference in the world for individuals like Nikara. During November’s Eye Donation Month, Mississippi Lion’s Eye Bank will promote cornea donation awareness, encourage individuals to register as organ, eye and tissue donors, and honor eye donors and their families.
“I encourage people to register to be a donor,” says Dr. Hall. “It can completely change someone’s life for the better.”
Five Fast Facts about Eye Donation
- When you register as an organ donor, your registration includes organs, eyes, and tissue.
- Registering to become a donor is easy. Register at the DMV when you renew your license or https://legacyofhope.org/donor-registration/.
- Cornea transplants help people with vision loss caused by eye disease or eye injury.
- There is no substitute for human eye tissue for cornea transplant surgeries.
- Unlike most other organ donations, donated corneas do not have to match blood type, age, or ethnicity with the cornea recipient.