Joanna Krynen : Corneal Transplant Recipient

Eye Bank of British Columbia

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Joanna Krynen: Corneal Transplant Recipient

Copied with permission from Ken Donohue (Editor of the “Transplant Times”
- a publication of the British Columbia Transplant Society) from the Summer 2000 Edition

Written by: Ken Donohue

On May 4 th, Joanna Krynen, 26, received the biggest gift of her life. It wasn’t her birthday, or even a late Christmas gift – it was better – a new cornea.

Joanna had poor vision all her life, but at the age of 12, while having a routine eye exam, and getting fitted with contact lenses, she was diagnosed with Keratoconus, a degenerative disease that destroys the cornea. “The specialist told me that in about 10 years I would need a cornea transplant”. “Ten years was so long away that it didn’t seem like such a big deal.” In the meantime she was given some hard contact lenses, which would put pressure on the corneas, and slow the disease.

Joanna’s sight continually worsened. “I remember after high school graduation, I went skiing with just one of my contacts… I had no depth perception. It was then that I realized how serious this was.” The disease began to affect the way she lived her life. “I hated mornings,” Joanna says. “I had to make sure my contacts were in before doing anything. I also had difficulty playing soccer- something I loved.”

In 1996, after seeing a specialist in Vancouver, Joanna was placed on the cornea waiting list. “I was anxious and angry,” she says. “I wasn’t scared or nervous, I just wanted it done.” Joanna was told she’d wait three or more years. As it turned out she waited nearly four years. But the call finally came. “They called me two days before the operation and said they had a cornea. I was so excited, but then I kept wondering what it was going to be like and if I’d need help.”

The transplant took place at St. Paul’s Hospital and took just 45 minutes. “They gave me a local anesthetic, and I stayed in the hospital for about seven hours, then I was on my way.”

Within a day, Joanna could see the effects of the cornea. “The next morning I took the bandage off my eye, so I could put the anti-rejection drugs in my eye, and it was the most amazing thing in the world- I could see- I started to cry. It hit home then that I received a transplant and that someone I didn’t even know gave me sight…it’s really hard to explain.”

The first thing Joanna did was write a letter of thanks to the family of her donor. “It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but it was so important,” Joanna is back on the waiting list for a cornea for her other eye and wants to thank Dr. Simon Holland, the cornea specialist in Vancouver. “It’s just amazing,” Joanna exudes. “I don’t have to be held back. I can lead a normal life.”

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