Seeing Through Another’s Eyes - Marg's Story

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Margaret lives a full life after her corneal transplant.
I am so grateful for two corneas, the work of the eye bank and one very clever surgeon. The miracle of having one's sight back is priceless.

I am very privileged I have enjoyed an amazing career in teaching which led onto being a RTLB (Resource Teaching Learning and Behaviour). This RTLB work supports teachers families and students who have learning or behaviour concerns. This led onto completing my Educational Psychologist training. So now I work in private practice supporting families with children who have learning needs or high anxiety.

I was born with fantastic sight and enjoyed great vision until one day at the age of 40, I was sitting in an optician's chair having a regular check. This optician looked, and they looked and they looked into my eyes. Finally I asked, “Ok - why this so intense looking?” They explained to me I would need to visit an ophthalmologist as they wondered if I had a condition called Fuchs' Endothelial Dystrophy. A visit to Wellington and the ophthalmologist confirmed that I did indeed have Fuchs'. No one else in my extended family that I knew had Fuchs', yet it is a genetic condition.

Three years after the diagnosis we were then living in Wellington. With a new optician they referred me to another Wellington Ophthalmologist. My eyes were checked every year for 19 years, and it looked like the condition wasn't going to progress so I wouldn't require intervention for the Fuchs'.

In 2022 this Ophthalmologist suggested I make contact with an eye surgeon just in case I might need treatment. I asked the always great question “if it was them who would they choose to do the surgery?” He thought long and hard and made a recommendation.

So, a visit with the new corneal specialist ophthalmologist was had. He suggested we start and make an appointment for surgery as the process can take some time due to the limited availability of corneas. A date was booked 6 months in advance. I did keep thinking this was weird as my sight was great.

On my first visit an elderly lady had just been seen by him. As she emerged form his rooms she looked confused as to what she was to do and where she needed to go. He was following behind and noticed she was confused. He gently explained things to her and showed her where to go. I was so impressed - I thought if he was that kind then that's the kind of surgeon I would trust with my eyes.

One day mid-October 2022 suddenly I woke and thought “Oh my it looks like I am looking through a white mesh curtain in one of my eyes.” Just ignore it I thought and it will clear. I probably shouldn't have driven to work, but I did. It was even worse there as all the lights were reflecting and others looked distant. I drove slowly home. Quickly rang and obtained an appointment. Again, the ophthalmologist did plenty of wondering what may have happened. Drops and a new appointment were given. I was checked every week for a month. I was so relieved that I had the first partial cornea surgery booked in a few months time.

The next three months were interesting:

  • Some days I had great vision other days, not so.
  • Only on days I felt confident did I drive for work.
  • When I looked in the fridge, I couldn't see the writing on the bottles and jars.
  • No longer did I have amazing clear sight for the houses on the top of the hills.
  • I needed the blinds down in the kitchen as when the light shone in, I couldn't see clearly what I was doing in the kitchen. I thought it was a bit strange that others didn't need the blinds down.
  • I was playing the piano for church one day and I could hardly read the music and only see about five metres in front of me and definitely no person in the congregation.
  • All the ‘what if’ thoughts whirred around in my head. I tried my best not to be anxious. What will be will be I thought. I have a deep faith and many great friends who share that faith and this journey with me. I did think that if I need a dog that will be OK. If I can never see my grandchildren's eyes I will at least hear their voices.

And the day of surgery came, then two weeks of looking at the ceiling with one's head tilted back. Once the air bubble dissipated I could see. It was clear and it was beautiful. I hadn't realised how much clarity and focus had slowly been ebbing away. A few weeks later I was able to get new corrected lens for my glasses. It was incredible.

Whew - I had managed to cope with the recovery. So, eight months later the other eye was operated on, also with success.

To be honest I am a very active person. As a family we enjoy the outdoors. I love gardening, and I love hand crafts. None of my friends could believe I could lie still for that amount of time.

But the process has been so worth it and I am so indebted to those and their loved ones who allowed donation of the corneas.

This has meant I can still live a very full life.

Yes - keep working in my career, gardening, tramping, handcrafts, playing the piano, prayer quilts, golf, watching sports and enjoying my family and very special mokopuna.

Let a loving heart guide your decisions.
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