Florida Lions Eye Bank




Meet some people whose lives have been changed by the beauty of restored sight

Bridgette Breault


In May of 2008 Bridgette Breault almost lost sight in one of her eyes. A glass bottle exploded in a freak accident and turned shards of glass into missiles that flew into her eye. 32-year-old Bridgette was rushed to University of Miami’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.

The prognosis was not good. There were five deep cuts in her eye and her eye lid was also lacerated. The ophthalmologists were not sure that her eye could be saved. After two hours of surgery, stitches and a special glue to seal her eye tissue together, she went home not knowing if she would see again from the injured eye.


Throughout the summer, Bridgette a normally energetic and athletic person, was barely mobile, unable to lift most objects or even brush her teeth. The simple act of bending over would cause pain and possibly tear the sutures in her eye. All of this was particularly difficult for Bridgette because of her lifestyle. She enjoys the beach, swimming, outdoor exercise, and activities with her friends, but was unable to do any of those things as the eye injury healed. As the weeks turned to months, Bridgette continued to suffer intense physical and emotional pain. She had to keep her eye covered and even wear sunglasses indoors because her eye was extremely sensitive to light.


“Because of the extent of the trauma in the center of Bridgette’s eye, it was clear that a corneal transplant would be necessary,” said Assistant Professor Leejee Suh, M.D. of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute who ultimately performed the corneal transplant.

Since Bridgette was young, her surgeon preferred to use corneal tissue from a younger person. This is where the Florida Lions Eye Bank played its important role in locating and preparing the tissue for transplant.


Early in September, the perfect tissue from a 41-year-old donor became available.


“When I heard that a cornea arrived for me, I thought it was the happiest day of my life,” Bridgette said. “Then I realized the happiest moment was the following day when the surgery was complete and the gauze and patch were removed and I could see!” And most importantly, for the first time in nearly four months, Bridgette had no pain. A month later, she was back at work, able to drive again and quickly healing. “With all I have endured, I have learned a lot about what is important,” she said. “I will carry that new outlook with me forever.”



Karin Williamson


Karin Williamson has always been a woman on the move. Before her retirement last year, she was a busy South Florida health care administrator who specialized in hospital quality assurance. And she hasn’t slowed down away from her job. She habitually walks four miles a day, exercises her talented green thumb in an impressive sub-tropical garden, creates gourmet baked treats in her home kitchen and feeds her curiosity as a voracious reader of all genres. But both her career and lifestyle were threatened with the gradual loss of sight from Fuchs’ dystrophy, an uncommon degenerative disease of the corneal endothelium that affects patients most often in their fifties and sixties.

Karin had faced eye problems throughout her life, including childhood treatment for amblyopia. She thinks the Fuchs’ dystrophy was inherited from her mother’s side. But it wasn’t until she reached her late forties that Fuchs’ began to take its toll, as her job required long hours of studying computer data and reports. As her vision diminished, she magnified the size of the type on her computer screen and used a magnifying glass to review printed spread sheets. In 2010, she went to corneal specialist Carol Karp, M.D., professor of Ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.

It was determined that Karin would ultimately need corneal transplants in both eyes. The first surgery would be in her “good” eye, a lifelong designation that stemmed from her childhood amblyopia. Prior to the first surgery in October 2010, Karin’s husband, Thomas, gave her a Kindle, a digital e-reader. “I love to read books, but since I wouldn’t be able to read after the surgery, most of the books we downloaded were audio,” she said. But just a few weeks after the surgery, Karin was back at work and reading large type on her Kindle. In April of 2012, the other eye received a new cornea. Both corneas were supplied by the Florida Lions Eye Bank. Now, when Karin reads, she keeps the font at normal size. “My vision is very good,” she said.


Craig Herschoff



The soft breeze, the stars overhead and the multi hued lights of the city dancing along the horizon…sailing at night on the waters of Biscayne Bay is one of Craig Herschoff’s favorite pastimes. But as the degenerative eye disease called Fuchs’ Dystrophy slowly robbed him of his vision, Craig could no longer see the channel markers and had to give up the joy of night sailing.

Craig, a resident of North Miami Beach, first noticed a problem with his vision in October of 1999. Although the cause of Fuchs’ Dystrophy is unknown, there may be a genetic factor. It most often strikes people in their fifties and with Craig, it was right on schedule: he was 53. In his case, the outer layer of his corneas were retaining liquid and not being properly nourished. “As it progressed, it became very painful as the corneas began to breakdown,” said Craig. His only option for retaining his sight was a cornea transplant. It was performed on his left eye by Dr. Richard Forster at Bascom Palmer in July of 2000, with tissue provided by the Florida Lions Eye Bank.

“At first, my vision was unstable. With the new cornea blurry and my other eye getting worse, I was basically blind,” said Craig. “My wife Nancy had to take off of work to care for me. It was a difficult time and she was a great help.” As his initial surgery healed, his vision improved and eventually it was 20/20.

Within a few months, Craig was relying almost completely on his new cornea for vision as the cornea in his other eye continued to deteriorate. In September of 2001, that too was replaced by a new cornea also supplied by the Eye Bank. “Now my vision is really quite good. I can play catch with my 14-year old son, Matthew.” Craig has also resumed sailing. “I like to sail around the bay, sometimes down to Elliot Key. I’ve even taken it all the way to the upper Keys,” he said. “Almost losing my vision helps me to appreciate just how beautiful being out on the water can be.”




If you wish to tell your story please send us correspondence to our offices as shown in the Contact Us page or send an email to efcaraza@med.miami.edu. We will not distribute or publish your story without your consent.

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