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When sight matters most
Going blind would be devastating for anyone, but when David Fleming began losing his vision, he was also losing a vital connection to the world.

David, who resides in Peoria, Illinois, has been deaf since childhood. He depends on reading and lip-reading to communicate, but he never let his hearing loss prevent him from leading an otherwise normal and successful life. Losing his vision to Fuchs’ Dystrophy was an especially harsh blow, as it gradually robbed him of his only remaining means of communication.

“Faces were gradually turning into a blur, and lip-reading was becoming more and more difficult,” David recalls. “I couldn’t sit in a dimly lit restaurant and talk to people across the table. Hell, I couldn’t even read the menu.”

His professional life was affected, too. David had spent his career in journalism – teaching it at Peoria’s Richwoods High School, before moving on to the newsroom of the Kankakee Daily Journal and the Peoria Journal Star. His failing vision made the work unmanageable.

“One of the reasons why I retired at 62 from my job on the copydesk of the Peoria Journal Star was because I could no longer read the proofs, and it was difficult to read the computer screen,” David says.

Although he knew his vision was failing and that he would one day need cornea transplants, David put off looking into the procedure.

“My biggest concern, and the reason, I think, that I refused to look for more information was my fear that corneas would not be available when I finally needed them,” he says.

What he didn’t know, though, is that the waiting list for corneas has been virtually eliminated in the United States, thanks to advanced surgery scheduling processes and the advent of corneal tissue preservation media. When David finally had a cornea transplant in his left eye in 2008 and a transplant in his right eye in 2009, Eversight Illinois made sure donated tissue was readily available for his surgeries. And now, with corrective lenses, David’s vision is 20/20 in his right eye and 20/25 in his left.

David is once again able to read, and to understand what people are saying by lip-reading. He can even drive again – a necessity that, before his transplants, had been limited to familiar roads or long stretches of highway where he wouldn’t have to read signs.

He fully realizes the value of the gift he has been given.

“I am walking around now, looking out at the world through the corneas of two people who are no longer with us,” David says. “I don’t take that lightly. Somebody who loved and was loved in return is gone, and those left behind still bear the pain. I am very much aware of that, and I feel their pain, too. I am so very, very grateful for the love that moved the donors and their families to reach out to a stranger and give him such a precious gift.”

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