DENVER (CBS4) - The mission of The Denver Hospice is to help the terminally ill die with dignity. But for seven months now, the dying have been helping the living see.
In May, The Denver Hospice started a partnership with the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank. So far, 44 patients have donated their corneas. With their gift, they are fighting blindness worldwide.
Ten years ago, Margaret McDonald started losing her vision. She is a pianist, a performer and an Associate Professor of Collaborative Piano at the University of Colorado Boulder, but an eye disease nearly took it all away.
"Everything started becoming blurry in just a few days," McDonald told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.
McDonald had keratoconus, thinning of her corneas. Her right eye, in particular, started bulging.
"The days became very difficult because I couldn't see my music, and it just got worse and worse," said McDonald.
In 2013, a corneal transplant restored McDonald's vision.
"It's still pretty unbelievable to me that I have another person's cornea here," McDonald said. "This person by making that decision, you know, gave me my life back really."
Craig Myers did the same for a woman in the United Kingdom.
"Craig was a very giving person," said Dana Myers, Craig's widow.
Craig died at The Denver Hospice in July 2018. He was one of the first patients there to donate his corneas under a new partnership with the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank. His gift gives Dana comfort.
"I absolutely can't imagine not being able to see so, thank God, someone's vision was restored by what he donated," she said.
Since May, 44 patients at The Denver Hospice have donated. Seventeen donations have gone to Colorado, one to California, two to Alabama, two to South Dakota and two to Florida.
One donation was sent to Egypt, eight to the United Kingdom and three to Ireland.
Because 68 percent of Coloradans have signed up to be organ donors, there is no waiting list in Colorado for a corneal transplant.
In our caring state, even in dying, people are helping the living.
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