Gift of Sight: Haughton woman thankful to cornea donors - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Gift of Sight: Haughton woman thankful to cornea donors

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Peggy James said her new corneas have given her back her life. Peggy James said her new corneas have given her back her life.
An ophthalmologist performs eye surgery at Lusk Eye Specialists. An ophthalmologist performs eye surgery at Lusk Eye Specialists.
A donor's cornea is stored in refrigeration at the Louisiana Eye Bank waiting to be transplanted into a recipient. A donor's cornea is stored in refrigeration at the Louisiana Eye Bank waiting to be transplanted into a recipient.
The Louisiana Lions Eye Bank in Shreveport serves 33 parishes. The Louisiana Lions Eye Bank in Shreveport serves 33 parishes.
Dr. Bryan Lusk of Lusk Eye Specialists performs corneal transplants in Shreveport. Dr. Bryan Lusk of Lusk Eye Specialists performs corneal transplants in Shreveport.
HAUGHTON, LA (KSLA) -

A Haughton woman is thankful that she no longer has to rely on blind faith to accomplish even the simplest of tasks.

Losing your eyesight brings on anxiety and uncertainty, and after years of battling corneal disease, Peggy James was afraid to simply drive at night.

March is National Eye Donation month. According to the National Eye Institute, worldwide corneal infectious diseases have affected the vision of more than 250 million people and have blinded over 6 million of them.

James said she is thankful for donors who gave her back her sense of security, by giving her gift of sight. For a while she could only thread the needle on her sewing machine by feeling for the eye on the needle. After a while that got to be an impossible task, forcing her to stop doing one of her favorite hobbies.

For eight years, corneal disease slowly robbed James of her eyesight. Driving became increasingly difficult and she was afraid to drive at night, especially after she hit a deer. She feared the next time it could be a person.

During those eight years, James' sight worsened. It was during a regular checkup with her ophthalmologist that she was diagnosed with Fuchs Dystrophy. Dr. Bryan Lusk of Lusk Eye Specialists in Shreveport explains that Fuchs Dystrophy is a condition where cells line the inside of the cornea and degenerate at a more rapid rate. which leads to swelling of the cornea.That leads to corneal swelling. As it progresses, patients will start to see only a haze of shadows.

In 2011 and 2012 Lusk replaced James' left and right corneas. She could see almost immediately after the surgery, and is thankful to the two people who decided to donate their corneas after death.

The Louisiana Lions Eye Bank in Shreveport is making a huge difference for people with impaired vision. The local eye bank services 33 parishes and in some cases sends corneas to doctors around the world. Corneas are stored in a temperature controlled refrigerator, and are extracted within the first 12 hours after a donor dies.

Eye bank executive director Denise Odom said when the corneas first come in they go into quarantine until the bank gets lab work completed and makes sure all medical information is correct. Doctors like to transplant corneas within three to five days of donation. Surgery takes anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.

As for James, she said her heart aches for the donor families' loss, adding that what was meant for her good was going to be somebody else's great loss. She said she started to pray for those families as well, as the donors gave her back her life.

The eye bank has more information on how to become a donor or give a cash donation to continue helping the to helping the nonprofit operate. It is holding an Eye Donor Awareness Dinner at 6:30 p.m. March 28 at the Hilton Garden Inn, in Bossier City. The dinner will honor the recipients of corneal donation and donor families. Guest speakers will share their experiences and their role in corneal donation. Tickets are $30 per person.

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