Donor mom and recipient connect through the healing power of donation and transplantation

Thanking Katie

Nov. 7, 2016, was a day September Vaudrey anticipated for more than eight years. She was finally going to meet the person who received the gift of sight from her daughter, Katie.

Katie passed away unexpectedly in 2008, and though she was only 19 years old, she experienced more joy, love and laughter than most people get in a lifetime. She was an accomplished artist who aspired to become a professional painter. Beyond her artistic endeavors, Katie dreamed of being a wife and mother one day.

“The week before her passing, she said, ‘Mom, I want to have six children,’” September said. “This completely reflects Katie’s highest priorities in life: family and people. She was all about loving people.”

This love for others had inspired her to join the donor registry several years earlier. Katie’s decision allowed her to touch the lives of eight people through eye, organ and tissue donation, including two cornea recipients in Illinois. When September learned of this outcome, she jumped at the chance to participate in the Eversight correspondence program and wrote Katie’s recipients a heartfelt letter.

“Katie saw beauty in all its imperfect forms through those beautiful eyes of hers. To know that her corneas are helping you see the world more clearly has brought me much joy over the years.”

The letter made its way to Evelin Vazquez, who had always wondered about the person to whom she owed her renewed sight. In her reply Evelin wrote: “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my donor and give thanks. Now I know I can say THANK YOU KATIE.”

Evelin’s struggle with corneal blindness began 10 years earlier. At just 20 years old, Evelin endured progressive vision loss and a series of misdiagnoses before finally receiving an explanation for her problems: keratoconus.

“I didn’t know if I would go completely blind,” Evelin said. “I asked my doctor if I would ever get to see the simple things like colorful flowers or my family’s faces. I didn’t know if my eye disease would end my dreams.”

Fortunately, Evelin regained hope when she learned a cornea transplant could restore her sight. Now, eight years after her surgery, Evelin has a successful career in the medical field and can enjoy all of life’s finest details—like her 5-year-old son’s smile. Evelin’s gratitude motivated her to do more than just write to September. It inspired her to set up a meeting. So, during the first week of November, Evelin and September finally had the chance to embrace and share their interconnected stories at Eversight in Chicago. As September hugged Evelin for the first time, she said,

“Thank you so much for being willing to meet me. It means so much.”

Evelin simply replied, “No, thank Katie.”