After battling eye disease for more than 20 years, Dallas Hall, a Department of Human Services staff member from Canberra, has been lucky enough to receive the gift of sight twice undergoing surgery for corneal tissue transplants in 2010 and 2015.
“I was completely unaware my eyesight was failing,” Dallas recalls. “But when I was sitting at the front of the classroom in high school and couldn’t read the blackboard, I knew something was wrong.”
“I went to the optometrist and was diagnosed with bilateral keratoconus. This was the beginning of my journey in life with a disability.
“Even though my disease was caught in the early stages, traditional glasses were useless to me.”
Dallas was instead prescribed with rigid gas contact lenses in 1997 and told he may need corneal transplants in the future if things got considerably worse.
“I was legally blind in both eyes without the contact lenses, but with them I was achieving around 19/20 vision,” he said.
“I remember the first time I went home wearing my contact lenses.
“I was surprised I could read number plates on cars, that I could actually see individual leaves in trees! My brain was completely overloaded by the extra details I could now see.”
But 10 years on and after spending more than $10,000 on lenses, Dallas’ disease deteriorated and he could no longer use the original contact lenses.
“Thankfully, a prototype contact lens had been successfully developed by that time,” Dallas said.
“The new lenses took a while to get used to because they were totally different to what I’d had.
“But in 2009, my sight deteriorated again and I was told I needed my first corneal tissue transplant as soon as possible.
Lucky Dallas received his first transplant in the middle of 2010.
“Thankfully I was told I had to have a transplant urgently, I didn’t have to wait very long,” he said.
Dallas was told by doctors he would eventually need a transplant in his other eye and elected to have the surgery before his vision deteriorated too severely.
“I had my second corneal transplant in August of last year,” he said.
“I just felt ready. The doctors told me it would be medically necessary in the future, so I decided to have it sooner rather than later.
“It was definitely easier the second time around. I had already come to terms with having the transplant and the recovery was much shorter. I even went for a run two weeks after my surgery – with the doctor’s permission of course!”
Dallas says his life has changed dramatically since his corneal transplants.
“It’s incredible how these tissue donations have transformed my life. Waking up and seeing my wife’s beautiful face every morning without having to put in a contact lens is by far the greatest thing ever.”
Stories like Dallas’ remind us of the gift you can bring to someone’s life when you register to become an organ and tissue donor.
“The one thing I would say to anyone thinking about becoming an organ and tissue donor is to do it, because you never know when it could be your turn,” he said.
“They gave me the best present anyone could possibly give me and it’s priceless.
“I don’t know who my donors were, and by law I can’t know, but I think about them a lot and I’ll be forever grateful.”
This DonateLife week, register your decision on the Australian Organ Donor Register.