TIOGA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Often we hear people challenge us to walk a day in their shoes.
But have you ever been asked to live your life through someone else’s eyes?
WBRE 28/WYOU 22 Eyewitness News reporter, Chris Bohinski explains how a simple yes can give someone the gift of sight.
“It’s a lot like looking through life in a five-year-old’s finger painting. It’s just smeary blobs of color,” three-time cornea donor recipient Samantha Wilcox said.
For Wilcox, much of her life has been blinded due to eye disease.
“Your life is on hold. You can’t do what you want to do. It’s a struggle or almost impossible to even leave the house,” Wilcox said.
“Globally, there is 12.7 million people that are suffering from corneal blindness,” SightLife Northeast Regional Director Jonathan Bryant said.
That’s where SightLife comes into focus. The world’s leading eye bank gives people a second chance at life through sight-restoring treatments with corneas.
“That small gift of tissue is life-changing for the recipients,” SightLife Chief Executive Officer Claire Bonilla said.
The transparent, dome-shaped, dime-sized cornea needs to be harvested and preserved shortly after someone’s death for it to have the best chance of giving someone the gift of sight. SightLife makes the difficult phone calls to grieving families to get their approval for that cornea donation.
“And often we find that just those conversations and then opportunity in a time of grief, can bring a little hope and light into someone’s bereavement,” Bonilla said.
In August 2019, Chris and his siblings got that exact phone call.
“I understand the cost that my life and my happiness came to these individuals, who on one of their darkest days made a decision to help me, a complete stranger,” Wilcox said. “Somewhere out there, there’s a kid just like me waiting to conquer the world. And all they need is a yes from that donor family.”
“I love you, Chris,” Chris’ mom, Barbara, a cornea donor, says.
“We know what the end goal is,” Chris says.
“Yes, going home,” Barbara says.
Although that home was Heaven for Chris’ mom, maybe, just maybe the person reading this story right now is reading through her eyes.
“Just say yes to the gift of sight,” Wilcox said.
In Pennsylvania, nearly 95 percent of the state supports organ donation, but less than 50 percent of those people are actually registered organ donors.