Man Sees World Through Mother's Eye After Corneal Transplant in South Florida

Myriam Santos Aguirre had a specific recipient in mind for one of her corneas

By Diana Gonzalez
|  Friday, Oct 25, 2013  |  Updated 10:34 AM CDT
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Juan Aguirre can now literally see through his mother's eye after getting a corneal transplant from his late mother. NBC 6's Diana Gonzalez reports.

Juan Aguirre can now literally see through his mother's eye after getting a corneal transplant from his late mother. NBC 6's Diana Gonzalez reports.

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Juan Aguirre can now literally see through his mother's eye.

“I have a part of my mother with me forever, so that’s really wonderful, just a beautiful thing,” he said.

On Oct. 8 at the University of Miami’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, Aguirre had a corneal transplant to repair damage from an accident when he was a child in Cuba. He received a cornea from his mother, Myriam Santos Aguirre, who died Sept. 30 at age 61.

“He had a central corneal scar, very thick with a lot of astigmatism,” said Dr. Guillermo Amescua. “His vision was very poor. Basically legally blind in that eye" – his left one.

Aguirre’s mother had a specific recipient in mind for one of her corneas.

“She always told me I’ve got great eyes and you're going to get one of them,” Juan Aguirre said.

The Florida Lions Eye Bank has been processing donated corneas for more than 50 years – but never had a mother-son donor and recipient until now.

It was a challenge to make the Miami surgery happen because the doctor had been on a mission trip to Honduras, and Aguirre lives in Virginia.

“We also have a very short window of opportunity. The tissue that’s recovered for transplant must be placed within seven days,” said Elizabeth Fout-Caraza of the Florida Lions Eye Bank.

“The eye bank was telling me from the beginning that it was very slim, slim chances that this would actually fall into place,” Aguirre said.

But it did, and three weeks after the transplant, Aguirre returned to Bascom Palmer for a follow-up visit.

Amescua said he’s made substantial progress with his ability to read a chart.

It will take three to six months to see the full effect of the transplant.

“When I cover my right eye it just seems like everything with this eye is vibrant,” Aguirre said. “And it’s funny because that's always how, that’s how I picture my mother. My mother was a very vibrant person.”

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