Patient overcomes Ďsudden darknessí with cornea transplant

For many people who experience blinding eye conditions, the loss of vision is gradual. For LaTerica Jackson, it happened in an instant. Even 12 years later, she remembers it vividly: she was in eighth-grade gym class Ė fifth period, after lunch Ė when suddenly the vision in her right eye was gone. The eye, normally brown, had turned blue. “That morning I was perfectly fine, and then out of the blue everything went dark,” she said. Jackson was rushed to the hospital, but the “constant flow” of doctors and nurses examining her couldnít tell her or her mother what had happened.

Eventually, the doctors realized that her cornea had been rubbed away. “When I was younger, I used to rub my eyes really hard with my thumb, and that was what caused the injury to my eye,” Jackson said. “My ophthalmologist, Dr. William Reinhart, said he had never seen anybody do that before.” A cornea transplant restored her vision a few weeks later. Shortly after, she received a letter from the donorís grandmother. She didnít know what to say in return. Now 24, Jackson is reaching out to her donorís family to share how their decision changed her life.

“I read the letter, but I didnít understand the magnitude of what I was reading when I was 12,” she said. “Iíve been trying to get to a point where I can write back and find the words to express my gratitude, and I feel like Iím finally there.”

In the years since her transplant, Jackson has found ways to make the most of the gift she received. A recent graduate of Ohio State University, she teaches preschoolers in Columbus while she pursues her masterís degree in social work. She also has been a registered eye, organ and tissue donor since age 16. “I want to donate anything I can when I die,” she said. “Somebody gave me a second chance.

It made me so much more appreciative of what I have, and of these amazing gifts that people can give to complete strangers. I hope Iím able to give to someone else the hope my donorís family gave to me.”