"I had my first cornea transplant in 2005 with Dr. Jacobs at Mercy Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It was a scary whirlwind. I didn't know anyone else that ever had a cornea transplant and I felt completely alone afterwards. About six years after my transplant, I had the amazing honor of meeting my donor's family. We celebrate birthdays, holidays and most importantly, my donor Jarren. Becoming a volunteer for the Iowa Donor Network was also life changing for me. My donor's mother and I share our stories and volunteer for IDN and the Iowa Lions Eye Bank together. I love being able to educate people on myths about donation and hear that because of me, or my donor's mother, they're going to reach out to their donor or loved ones recipient. If that doesn't give you goosebumps to hear.
I also found Team Iowa through IDN and learned, I was not alone. Through the connections attending the Transplant Games of America, I have been able to meet SO many other people that have had cornea transplants. I love hearing their stories and also being able to be the person for some, I never had for support after my transplant. I've recently had to undergo a second cornea transplant in my same eye in October of 2019 with Dr. Greiner at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. I wrote a letter to my second donor family, but I haven't had the opportunity to connect with them. I made sure to let them know the incredible impact their decision had on my life, and that I would live the rest of my life honoring both of my donors. And that's what I do! I start each day with a grateful heart and always count my blessings."
--Crystal Ellis, Cornea Recipient