With gift of late husband’s eyes, woman encourages organ donations

Jackie Smith donated her late husband David Smith's corneas to Advancing Sight Network...
Jackie Smith donated her late husband David Smith's corneas to Advancing Sight Network following his sudden passing in 2017.(Source: Jackie Smith)
Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 4:11 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 3, 2021 at 10:35 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - David Smith put his entire heart into everything he did. Described as an outstanding artist and visionary, David used his creative “eye” to paint murals and create intricate sets for schools and church productions.

“Not only was David a talented artist, but he was a creative genius,” said Jackie Smith, David’s wife of 29 years.

Jackie Smith remembers her late husband as being a generous, kind, loving, and amazing husband. She said they worked together, played together and laughed together as true soul mates, together since their teenage years.

“He was just an amazing man, father, friend,” Jackie Smith said.

That’s why David Smith’s sudden passing in 2017, at age 50, was so especially gutting. On Thanksgiving night of that year, he suffered a heart attack.

“From that very moment, I knew that my pain needed to have purpose,” Jackie Smith said.

Jackie Smith, devastated by his unexpected passing, made the difficult - but generous - decision to donate David Smith’s corneas to the Advancing Sight Network.

“I knew it was super important, because if it could help someone else it was my joy to do that,” Jackie Smith said.

David Smith’s corneas were donated to two separate people in Maryland.

“There are two people right now that can see and enjoy life and enjoy their families and their jobs and maybe even creating art because of his gift,” Jackie Smith said.

When someone chooses to be an organ donor, Advancing Sight Network is responsible for reaching out to families and recovering the donors eye tissue. They then prepare the tissue for sight saving surgeries like cornea transplants or for ocular research.

“We are a non-profit organization. We are the only eye bank serving the State of Alabama,” said Candice Lee, Director of Development for Advancing Sight Network.

“Our services are available to anyone who needs it. We never turn down anyone if they don’t have insurance,” Lee added.

Lee said they are always in need of donations.

“Eyesight is such a gift, it’s something a lot of us take for granted until we lose it,” Lee said. “Our recipients are so grateful to the donors who make it possible to be able to enjoy that gift.”

Advancing Sight Network has been recovering tissue for transplant, research and training for more than 60 years. In 2020, Advancing Sight Network recovered 3,000+ eye tissues for cornea transplant, humanitarian care and ocular research.

If you would like to register to be an eye donor, it’s only a click away. All you have to do is visit https://registerme.org/ and fill out your information.

Registration can also be done when you renew your driver’s license at the DMV.

“To be able to give the gift of sight I think is an amazing gift,” Jackie Smith said. “Just to know that you can do that, what a wonderful thing to do.”

Almost anyone can be a cornea donor, regardless of vision, age, or past ocular health issues such as cataracts or laser vision correction.

“Eye donation” doesn’t mean the entire eye is transplanted; instead, only the cornea, the clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye, is replaced, restoring sight for those with cornea-related blindness.

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