When Emily was a little girl, she loved to visit the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, New Jersey, with her family.
Her favorite exhibit was the dark and soundless Touch Tunnel, where Emily said it was as though her senses of sight and hearing had been turned off. It was intriguing and scary, she added, and gave her a better understanding of just how much people take for granted the ability to see in particular. It’s a lesson of which she’d be reminded later in her life.
In 2007, as a 23-year-old professional with a great job, Emily was independent and living a life filled with travel, writing, friends, rock ‘n roll concerts and hopes for the future. When removing her contacts did not alleviate a strong irritation in her left eye one evening, she was reminded of the lessons of the Touch Tunnel and sought medical help. After three weeks of aggressive medical care, an infection in her eye was eliminated, but a large scar remained in the center of her cornea. After a while, the corneal scar had not shrunk, her cornea had thinned greatly and her vision did not improve. A transplant was the only option. The procedure was conducted in 2008 and, to Emily’s relief, was a complete success.
“That day belongs just as much to my donor and the donor’s family as it does to me. I realize that this was truly a great gift,” said Emily. “I have so much to give and so much yet to do. I owe that much to my donor, and I think about my donor every day.”
Emily was an organ donor before her surgery; now she’s a walking testament to the importance being one. Many of her family and friends are now donors because of her experience. To encourage more people to make the same life-giving commitment, she conveyed this message: “I encourage you to share the gift of life and hope with others by being a donor. I personally thank you for your generosity. Grateful recipients like me may be tucked away in the great mass of people in this country, but we are here and we are appreciative every day for the gift that has been bestowed upon us.”