NORTHERN CALIFORNIA — Each year, SightLife sponsors the Donate Life Float in the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, Calif. Entitled “Treasure Life’s Journey,” the 2016 float featured the stories of those who gave or received life-transforming gifts through eye, tissue and organ donation. SightLife was proud to tell the story of cornea recipient Lucy Vazquez and share in her experience as a float rider.
Lucy, a 26-year-old Northern California native, was recovering from a successful kidney transplant when she noticed her vision was starting to deteriorate. She was diagnosed with iridocorneal endothelial syndrome (ICE), a very rare condition that causes damage to the cornea’s endothelial cells, leading to progressive loss of vision and episodes of eye pain. Thankfully, ICE can be treated with a corneal transplant.
Her sister had lovingly donated her new kidney, but the cornea for Lucy’s transplant would need to come from someone she did not know who had graciously chosen to make their last act one of generosity. It was evident from the letter Lucy later sent to her cornea donor’s family that she was enormously grateful for this gift. “I am very touched and honored to have received a piece of your daughter who I thank for my new found vision,” she wrote. “My transplant experiences have taught me to appreciate more and love deeper.”
It was her compassion and exuberance that made Lucy the perfect representative of cornea recipients and SightLife in the 2016 Rose Parade. Lucy’s sister and kidney donor, Lilia, accompanied her, and the pair was joined by Lucy’s corneal surgeon, Douglas Holsclaw, MD of Kaiser Permanente, and his wife, Melody Summers, who serves as chairperson of SightLife’s board of directors. While in Pasadena, the SightLife group participated in many events, including decorating the Donate Life Float, which won the Isabella Colman trophy for best use of color.
Visit SightLife’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/throughNewEyes to learn more about Lucy’s trip to the 2016 Rose Parade—photos and video show this special experience through her new eyes.
Photography by Ernesto Melero