Donor family meets researcher who received loved one's tissue to fight diabetic eye disease

Donor family meets researcher

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Tim Anegon’s only hope for survival was a liver transplant. When his wife, Coleen, received the phone call that one was available, she and her two daughters knew it was only possible because another family was experiencing the grief of losing a loved one.

Sadly, Tim passed away after complications from his transplant. Despite his family’s heartbreak, they never forgot what that donation meant. Coleen knew right away her husband would want to return the same generosity to someone else.

But they discovered that only Tim’s eye tissue was eligible for donation. And it was going to research. At first, it was a disappointment.

“We really didn’t think it was that big of a deal,” Coleen said.

On Aug. 10, the Anegon family’s story came full circle and forever changed their view of research donation.

Coleen and her daughter Courtney met with Dr. Patrice Fort at Kellogg Eye Center in Ann Arbor. Dr. Fort is a University of Michigan researcher who received Tim’s eye tissue to study diabetic eye disease.

More than 32 million people worldwide are blind and another 200 million suffer from moderate to serve visual impairment. Donations like the one provided by the Anegon family assist researchers like Dr. Fort better understand the causes of debilitating eye disease.

“We didn’t understand the full impact of Tim’s donation,” Coleen said. “Now we realize what a legacy it truly is.”

Eversight arranged the meeting between the Anegon family and Dr. Fort as part of its Hope and Healing program that celebrates the gift of donated eye tissue to research.

“The Hope and Healing program gives families a chance to see the real impact of research donation,” said Coleen Vrba, Eversight Research Programs Manager. “Knowing that your love one’s donation is helping to find therapies and treatments for blinding eye diseases that affect millions of people has a tremendous meaning for families.”

The emotional meeting between Dr. Fort and the Anegon family bridged the gap between donation, research and the search for the causes and cures of blinding eye conditions.

“It all starts with one family. We need to educate everyone out there,” Dr. Fort said. “Every donation is important—every single one. Getting more people to understand the importance of research can give hope to those who are struggling with their vision and need our help.”