Nevadan Celebrates March’s National Eye Donor Month By Sharing her Story of Renewed Life

Sonja Vera

RENO, NV – Sonja Vera knows the huge life-changing impact cornea donations carry – and plans to celebrate National Eye Donor Month in March by helping to raise awareness of that fact in Nevada. Sonja can now watch her sons play sports, care for patients as a nurse at Renown and drive a car — all thanks to the gift of a cornea she received.

“When I was 18, a car accident caused me to completely lose vision in my right eye, when the optic nerve detached,” recalls Sonja. “And then, due to complications nerve damage to my face, my left cornea thinned and became bumpy – it was like looking out of shattered glass.”

Sonja reports that before her cornea transplant she worried about the effect on her two young sons. “I couldn’t do anything for them. I couldn’t cook, help with homework — I couldn’t see them! I thought I wouldn’t be able to see them grow up. And doing my job of nursing was impossible, so I worried about providing for them. It was horrible.”

All that changed after Sonja received a corneal transplant in her left eye. “It’s amazing – I feel so blessed that someone was willing to do that for me – willing to donate,” says Sonja. “My quality of life improved dramatically. I see so well now – 20/20, with corrective lenses. I can now work again and care for my sons. And now at the boys’ football and baseball games – I can see them! The biggest blessing is to be able to see my kids grow up.”

Eyesight was restored for 1,050 people in 2014 in the service area covered by Sierra Donor Services, which includes Northern Nevada and California.

Those transplants were made possible by the generosity of Nevadans, reports Sierra Donor Services’ Director of Ocular Services, Sam Ramos. He states that nationally, 54% of recovered eye donors were authorized through state registries through the third quarter in 2014 (latest statistics available). But during that same time period in Nevada, 63% of ocular donors were registered donors, surpassing the national average by nine percent.

“This speaks to the incredible generosity of Nevadans,” says Ramos. “Currently, about 40% of our state residents have signed up on the Donate Life Nevada registry. Each of those people has the opportunity to save up to eight lives as an organ donor and enhance another 50 lives through tissue donation. Nevadans are truly making a difference for life!”
This March marks the 32nd year for National Eye Donor Month which is commemorated to help promote awareness of the need to donate eyes, to recognize donors and their families and to celebrate corneal recipients.

Sonja says she wants everyone to know this National Eye Donor Month how grateful she is. Already, her story has impacted one person’s decision to donate. “My son just got his learner’s driving permit and put himself down as a donor. I’m sure my experience influenced that!”
To sign up to donate organ, eye and tissue – go to: www.donateLIFEnv.org.

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*Sierra Donor Services is a Dialysis Clinic Inc. Donor Services (DCIDS) subsidiary. SDS is a nonprofit agency dedicated to meeting the needs of the community by providing families the option of organ and tissue donation for transplantation and research. SDS serves Inland Northern California, including Sacramento, ten surrounding counties, Santa Rosa and Northern Nevada. www.sierradonor.org.