When everything had happened and my cornea perforated, thanks to my own stupidity in the end of it all (knuckle slipped from my brow and BAM!), all I felt was fear and anxiety.
I didn't know what was going to happen next. Was surgery going to be needed? Will I have an eyeball? What happened next?... Those questions haunted me daily all the way up through my transplant surgery.
Then, the anger started. I was mad at myself. I played the "should haves" and the "what ifs". And they all were aimed at myself. If only I had gotten the skin condition treated sooner. If only I had gone to a better doctor in the first place over the reoccurring eye infections.
There were SO many things I should have, and could have, done different. Then maybe, I would not be where I ended up.
After the surgery, and about a month of recuperation, I started having bouts of depression. It was nearing Thanksgiving (my surgery was 2 days before Halloween and is an entirely different entry altogether) and I had to go in to see my Corneal Specialist for a check-up.
Out of the blue, I started to bawl. I cried so bad, I think that the poor guy was scared I'd pop a stitch and raise my optic pressure through the roof.
Finally, I had blurted it out... Something I had kept silent until that point. I felt guilty. Like I had stolen something. Like because of MY carelessness, someone else had to "pay" to let me make it all right.
I was suffering from Survivor's Guilt. And a nasty case of it, too.
When my first (and only to date) bout of rejection came in January of 2010, I felt that anger boil up inside of me all over again. I was doing EVERYTHING right. My drops, my pills, my shield. No bending or lifting. Still though, I was rejecting.
I was scared to lose this precious gift. And I was scared that I was letting my donor and their family down.
These days, two years and almost two months later, when things (like the popped stitch that infected and abscessed) go wrong, I get scared. And yes, I get angry. Again. But only at myself and my eye.
I AM SCARED all of the time, but try to keep it in the back of my mind, within the deepest depths. I could reject today. Or tomorrow. Maybe not for another 20 years. Or (hope to God) never. But the POSSIBILITY is always there.
Most people that have never had to go through this type of transplant just view it as "just an operation" and "just eye tissue" that happens to be the "most transplanted thing on the body" with the "most success rate".
But it does NOT mean that we are any less vulnerable to our emotions as TRANSPLANT Recipients. It does NOT mean that we are ANY less grateful or appreciative, or mindful of our gift, or of our Donor and their family.
A friend of mine over on FaceBook, that I had met through a Transplant group and has had a Liver Transplant had brought up something that I have never thought of. But after "listening" (AKA reading) about it, it made complete sense.
We all (from corneas to hearts, to lungs to skin grafts) suffer quite possibly from some form/amount of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)... What we went through BEFORE our transplants, going through the transplants knowing that (for most of us) someone had to DIE in order to help us live, and the side effects from post-surgery.
That all combined really takes a toll on the Recipient. Emotionally, mentally and physically. Transplants, even in the most simplest of forms, can honestly take their toll on the patient. And in turn, on their family and caregivers (another post for a later time).
So, know my fellow Corneal Graft brothers and sisters, you are NOT alone in your thoughts and feelings. We are not weak. We are strong. And what WE went through is just as much of a "big deal" as those that get a heart, a liver or a lung. Our sight was saved. And our lives were made better.
Because our Donors and their families gave the ultimate gift one can ever receive. The Gift of Sight, and of a better life.
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