Eye problems had plagued Norm for years. To read, he held pages three to four inches away from his eyes. His work fitting insulation on aircraft carriers in the evenings at the Philadelphia Naval Yard was also affected; just navigating his way around the ship was a challenge. Hard contact lenses helped, but they were difficult for Norm to wear. “My eyesight was worsening, and I wondered how I could work and adequately care for my family," Norm recalled. Finally, in a routine eye exam he learned the seriousness of his situation. He was diagnosed with keratoconus, a deterioration of the structure of the cornea that results in bulging of the cornea and loss of visual acuity. Norm was convinced his life was over.
Norm’s diagnosis came at a time when there was a cornea wait list and it was not uncommon to wait years in darkness. It was also a time when far less was known about corneal transplants and their effectiveness. “I was extremely fearful for my future, and I did not understand completely what a cornea transplant would mean,” he said.
In 1983, after six weeks on the waiting list, the call came for Norm to report to Wills Eye Hospital, where he had his first transplant. Discharged after three inpatient days, his vision steadily improved over the next year. His second transplant was done in 1986. It, too, was successful.
Because of the generosity of a donor family, Norm said he no longer worried about how to take care of his family, which he has enjoyed seeing clearly through such joyful occasions as his daughter’s marriage and the birth of his first grandchild.
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