Stories of Donors and their Families
They made a difference
Saying ‘yes’ to cornea donation can make a profound impact on someone’s life. Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley recognizes every donor and their family as heroes who define what it truly means to be altruistic.
Acknowledgement, however, isn’t always enough. Families often benefit from sharing more about the special person they have lost. In recognition of our selfless donors, LEBDV offers ways for donor families to pay tribute to their loved one or contact recipients of the Gift of Sight.
JoAnn’s Legacy Lives On
“My mom was truly one of a kind. She was the hardest working, most caring, selfless person I know. When she loved you, she loved you with everything and then some. There was standing room only in her memorial service. Everyone who met her was blessed to know her.
When I had kids of my own, they became her entire world. My daughter Addison still pats her heart and says, ‘my mom-mom’s here.’
When it came time to say goodbye, I knew without a second of hesitation that she would want to donate whatever she could to help others. I had to show my kids that during the darkest of times there’s still light, even if it’s light you make yourself.
Within 24 hours of her passing, I registered myself as a donor, and took my friend to the DMV to make sure she did the same.
My 7-year-old son Caleb said it best: ‘Two people can now see their loved ones through our loved one’s eyes’.”
–Jennie H., Greenwood, DE
Say “YES” to giving someone a second chance at life. Register as an organ and tissue donor at registerme.org
Allen’s Legacy Lives On
“Allen was passionate about photography,” recalls Leah. “He had such an artistic eye.” In 2007, Allen was diagnosed as terminally ill from a recurrence of cancer. His loving wife of 25 years, Leah, helped her husband write down his final wishes during his last days of life. Something that was important to Allen was to be an eye, organ and tissue donor. Allen was saddened to learn that with his diagnosis of cancer, he was precluded from being an organ donor.
Upset with the news, Leah did further research and learned that cornea donation was still a possibility. “When we discovered Allen could donate both of his corneas, we cried tears of joy,” recalls Leah. After his death, Allen’s beautiful blue eyes helped two men in New Jersey see their loved ones again. Leah felt Allen’s decision of donation was also a gift to her. She was relieved Allen was no longer in pain and that something positive came out of their tragedy.
“Allen had photographs of everything,” says Leah. “He saw art everywhere. It seemed appropriate to me that his passion was the one thing that he was able to donate, his eyes and his view on the world. I was so thankful because I knew it was important to him.”
Allen was a character bigger than life itself. He was a very honest man. He was a civil rights advocate in the 1960s. He believed in and practiced tolerance. He became a grandpa, which is something that he wanted desperately for many years. His grandson, Benny, was born 16 months before Allen passed away.
Allen was very articulate and had an IQ of 135, which is the reason he was chosen to take military intelligence training when he enlisted in the army during the Vietnam era. His sharp sense of humor helped through the extreme stresses of his prolonged battle with cancer. Allen’s original thoracic surgery, when they removed a lung, was in 1999. He had a recurrence in 2007, which ultimately claimed his life and allowed him to fulfill his wish to pass on the gift of sight.
Leah continues to honor her late husband Allen by being an advocate of eye, tissue and organ donation. She is a very active member of Gift of Life Donor Program’s Hearts of Gold Program, which is a volunteer group of donor family members who offer support to donor families whose loved ones have made the selfless decision to donate in their time of grief.
Don’s Legacy Lives On
My fiancé Don loved helping people. It was a part of him. He was the kind of person who would always ask someone how they were doing, it didn’t matter where we were. We could be at a grocery store or paying someone at a toll booth or a gas station and there would be Don asking, “How are you doing today?” If someone was wearing a name tag, he’d always address them by their name.
Don was a father, a grandfather, a brother, an uncle, a cousin, a friend, a trusted confidant, a leader, an executive, a man who feared and loved God, my soulmate and my very best friend. Everyone who encountered Don would have something positive to say after. He lived life to its fullest.
My Don was an accountant, smart as could be and very successful in his skill. His passion however was cooking, he could’ve easily been a famous chef at a Michelin star restaurant. His chocolate chip cookies were a crowd favorite and even though he’d share the recipe with people, we would hear those who attempted making it say they just couldn’t get those cookies to taste as good as his.
My life with my fiancé Don was by far the best years of my whole life. We met by chance 5 years ago and we were one of those stories where no matter where I was or where he was in our city, we’d run into each other several times, as though our guardian angels were purposely putting us together. I loved him from day one and never stopped.
I know if Don could speak to his recipients he’d say, I wish you happiness, amazing memories, joy, love and a world that can be a bit brighter now for you.
My Don’s passing wasn’t the end of our story. He will live in my heart forever. His legacy will carry on through the lives that he touched and the recipients whom he gave the Gift of Sight.
Tony’s Legacy Lives On
Jagdish’s Legacy Lives On
We are kicking off the New Year right with a very special Favorite Friend Friday highlighting a selfless donor and his family.
Jagdish Narula was a family man who put everyone else’s needs before his own. After graduating from a prestigious engineering university in India, he moved to the US, joined shortly thereafter by his wife, Sushma, and their three young daughters.
“Even long after Jagdish left India, he helped many families back home,” his wife Sushma explains. “Two of my brothers passed away when their children were young. My husband supported them with their education and other needs. He also helped a family of 6 to purchase a home so they could move to a safer neighborhood.”
Jagdish was a nuclear power plant structural engineer who was devoted to his job and worked until the day he passed away. He raised his three daughters to believe they could do absolutely anything they set their minds to; all three grew up to be successful physicians.
“Jagdish and I were truly soulmates. We were like two bodies with one shared soul. All our friends used to tease us because we were never apart, always inseparable. When Jagdish left for his heavenly abode, my heart was shattered, but with the grace of God, I was able to think about other people’s suffering and decided to share Jagdish’s love through organ donation,” Sushma recalls.
“I come from a family of giving. In 1988, my maternal uncle passed away in India. My older sister persuaded my mother to donate his corneas, in spite of resistance from the other family members. My family back home and our three daughters in America all advocate for organ and tissue donation.”
Sushma is well aware of the many myths surrounding organ donation and believes in dispelling these myths through knowledge. She raises awareness about the importance of organ donation and advocates for people to register as organ and tissue donors. If you would give back during your life, why wouldn’t you continue once you are gone?
Through Jagdish’s donation of his corneas and bones, the lives of 163 people have been improved. Two people have been given the gift of sight with his corneas, and 161 people have been recipients of his bones, allowing them to have life changing surgeries such as dental implants and orthopedic surgeries.
“The recipients are blessed to have a part of Jagdish with them, a piece of the most intelligent, caring, selfless and kind man, who believed in justice, equality and love for all. They are truly blessed. His love has been spread to many and his legacy will be carried on by future generations of our family.”
Rickey’s Legacy Lives On
“If this could help another child to not have to go through what I do than let’s do it,” Dawn remembers hearing Rickey say. “Where and when” was Rickey’s philosophy as he offered his blood, saliva and time participating in research studies at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). “He was always thinking about other people and never expected anything in return,” says Dawn.
Richard Scott Colomy Jr. 3rd, who everyone called Rickey, was born with vascular malformation. As part of Rickey’s life-long care at CHOP, he had endless doctor’s appointments, follow-up visits, surgeries and therapies.
“Something that impressed me about my son was that nobody knew he was sick. If you didn’t know his circumstances, you would never know. With as much as Rickey had gone through, intense and invasive surgeries, it can take a toll on someone’s body and mind but he always smiled. I think that’s what always captivated people. The nurses and surgical coordinators would say that his smile was infectious.”
On January 13, 2015 Rickey had surgery number 18. It took longer than expected. When he was finally in recovery, Rickey came out smiling, but seemed concerned. “He told me that something was different, but couldn’t explain what it was.”
As part of recovery, Rickey was on injections twice a day. He was sore, but that was to be expected. One to never sit around, Rickey began leaving the house again. He went out to visit his girlfriend and called to check in that night. “I said I love you buddy. He said I love you too Momma”, recalls Dawn. “That was the last time I talked to my son.”
Rickey suffered from a pulmonary embolism and passed away in the middle of the night.
Rickey had a wide range of friends. He never judged people. He accepted everyone. “I didn’t realize how many people relied on Rickey,” Dawn recalled. “There was a young lady that Rickey was friends with since grade school. Her family didn’t have a lot of money and her medication would upset her stomach. She would get nauseous from taking her medication on an empty stomach and so she wouldn’t take it. This young girl truly needed her medication. I found out later that Rickey would bring this girl chips and soda every day to homeroom to make sure she would take her medicine. He had a profound impact on that young lady.”
Rickey was a beautiful, kind and caring soul. Before Rickey passed away he introduced his mother to his friend’s father. “He kept asking me to go out with him, I remember thinking what is wrong with him,” recalls Dawn. After attempting to cancel on a coffee date, Rickey pleaded that she go. John made Dawn the happiest she had been in a long time and Rickey loved him. “Rickey introduced me to my husband,” says Dawn. “He made sure that I was taken care of before he left.”
Dawn honored her son’s wishes to donate his corneas. “It was his decision that he made solely on his own,” says Dawn, “I wasn’t surprised he wanted to be a donor. I couldn’t be more proud, I couldn’t be more pleased. Giving back is Richard.” Rickey’s eyes saved the sight for two individuals.
“Child loss will truly rip you from everything that you are. It’s been a long journey I but I continue to hear Richard in my ear because after every surgery that Richard would have which was very intense and very invasive, I would always say to him you don’t give up you keep fighting you keep going and that is what I keep hearing in my head. ‘Don’t give up keep fighting you’re not a quitter.’ And the days when I feel like I can’t get out of bed those are the words that I hear. It’s hard, I do struggle, but then I think of Richard and I know I have to get up today.”
Tiffany’s Legacy Lives On
By all accounts, Tiffany was an extraordinary young woman, known for her memorable spirit, motivating personality and strong faith. An active student, she graduated from West Philadelphia High School with a resume full of accomplishments, including being named homecoming queen and elected class secretary. She won awards at science fairs and served as an advocate for school reform. Entering Cheyney University in 2008, her mom, Althea, who had worked for Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley for more than 30 years, said, “Tiffany worked hard to excel, despite numerous hospital stays, and she had many accomplishments, such as being appointed secretary for the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality: Cheyney Branch in September 2012. But more important, Tiffany always encouraged and helped her friends and classmates stay on track. She was very giving and always left an impression on the people she met!”
Unfortunately, Tiffany faced some significant health concerns, and in October 2012, during her senior year at Cheyney, Tiffany died of a pulmonary embolism. The family was heartbroken. While they were unable to donate Tiffany’s organs, the decision to donate her eyes, bone and tissue was a given.
“Since I worked here so long, everyone at the Eye Bank watched Tiffany grow up. She was very familiar with the work we do, and she felt strongly about giving back. I knew we could donate her corneas and help to restore the vision of two individuals. After the surgery, the doctor who transplanted one of her corneas let me know that his patient was already seeing clearer than she had in years. It brought tears to my eyes and I thought to myself, what a beautiful legacy she’s passed on,” said Althea.
“Tiffany’s life wasn’t just a blessing to her family and the recipients who received her gift,” Althea explained. “She left a mark on many. When she passed on, the Cheyney community came together in ways we couldn’t imagine: holding candlelight vigils, busing students to her service and even presenting her an honorary BS degree in May 2013. I am so proud to say that Tiffany accomplished more in her short life than many ever will. And she continues to live through the people she has helped—her family, her friends, her peers and her corneal recipients.”
Carlie’s Legacy Lives On
At age 9, Carlie was diagnosed with benign rolandic epilepsy. It was her family’s understanding that nearly all children outgrow the disorder—which is characterized by seizures—by age 15. Unexpectedly, when she was only 11 years old, Carlie did not recover from a severe seizure. When it was determined there were no more miracles for their little girl, Carlie’s family decided to create a miracle for another family.
The decision to donate Carlie’s organs and corneas was such an easy one for her family to make because of the type of person Carlie was. They knew that if Carlie were able to make the choice, there would have been no doubt in her mind that it was the right thing to do. It brings joy to her family to know that she is helping people even after her death.
“She always shared her toys with her four sisters and never made a fuss about anything,” says Carlie’s mother, Maria. “She always went with the flow.”