Returning home from his first cornea transplant, Brian could for the first time see well enough to notice handprints all along the hallway wall, where night after night he’d been groping his way to bed. “I told my wife, ‘We have to paint these!’” Nearly 25 years later, he is helping other cornea recipients find their way through their equivalent of that dark hallway.
After a college English teacher asked why he squinted all the time, Brian sought out an ophthalmologist, who diagnosed keratoconus, a degenerative condition that leaves corneas misshapen and scarred and distorts vision. Brian wore special contact lenses for years to correct the problem but began to wonder whether he’d be able to continue his work as an engineer. He had difficulty reading specs and, when drafting, could not tell if he’d drawn one line or two. Brian’s doctor recommended corneal transplants.
The transplants proved career-saving. Now involved with engineering support and sales, Brian enjoys 20/20 vision with contacts. In gratitude for his gifts of sight, he wrote letters to the families of both his cornea donors, thanking them for enabling him to carry on his life.
Brian found another way to express his gratitude—he joined Lions Clubs International, the world’s largest service organization. “I saw what the Lions had done for me,” he explains, “so I decided to pay them back. When you can’t see and then suddenly you can, you want to help others.” In addition to his work with a local Lions club, Brian served on the Minnesota Lions Vision Foundation board of directors for six years and is now the foundation secretary.
In 2009, Brian’s connection with the eye bank deepened when Brian’s son, Tony, passed away from a rare cancer and became an eye donor.