Child celebrates three years with the gift of sight

Iowa Lions that raised at least $1000 for the Lions Legacy Project.

Joseph Carlson, 3-years old

On April 7, 2018, 3-year old Joseph Carlson will be celebrating an important anniversary –three years ago, he was able to see for the very first time.

At three months old, Joseph received his first cornea transplant in his left eye. Before the surgery, Joseph was blind, only able to see bright lights.

"I knew something was wrong with Joe’s eyes right after he was born," says his mother Andrea. "His eyes had a cloudy, chalk-like appearance."

Days later, Andrea and her husband learned that Joseph had a disease called Peter’s Anomaly, a condition that causes corneas to be clouded at birth. Peter’s Anomaly is so rare it occurs in only 1-2 children per 100,000 births. Joseph was also born without a corpus callosum, the neurological structure that allows both sides the brain to communicate with each other.

A pediatric ophthalmologist in Des Moines referred Joseph to the ophthalmology department at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. He was one-week old when he had his first appointment with Dr. Kenneth Goins and Dr. Scott Larson. Three months later, Joseph had a cornea transplant in his left eye and was able to see the world for the very first time, giving him the chance to lead the life of a normal child. Six weeks later, he received his second cornea transplant, this time in his right eye.

Iowa Lions that raised at least $1000 for the Lions Legacy Project.

Four month old Joseph, after his second transplant surgery

Joseph’s family is forever grateful to the cornea donors that made Joseph’s sight possible. Andrea once said, “Each morning is like Christmas for Joseph, because he has two gifts that he gets to open, his eyes”.

Through Iowa Lions Eye Bank’s “Gratitude is the Best Attitude” program, which encourages correspondence between donor families and recipients, the Carlson family has been in touch with the donor family of Joseph’s right cornea. His donor, Darick, was only 18 when he died tragically in a car accident near his home in Ottawa, Kansas. Joseph’s transplant surgery took place the same day as Darick’s funeral.

In a letter to the Carlson family, Darick’s mom wrote that Darick was someone who went out of his way to look out for those who often got left behind, and always made everyone feel important and loved. They sent prayers for Joseph to have eyes to also see beyond the surface and to have a tender heart that sees those who need a hand up.

In Andrea’s reply, she shared that she and her husband intend to always honor the fact that their son shares a piece of Darick, and that Joseph will always grow up knowing who Darick is.

The two families have since connected through social media, and are hoping to meet in person this summer, despite the 4 hour distance.

Joseph is a resilient little boy and he is thriving with his corneal transplants. He started an early preschool in January, and attends every weekday afternoon. His mom said, “Joseph loves going to school and looks forward to it every day!” Joseph is also competing as the youngest member of Team Iowa in the 2018 Donate Life Transplant Games of America in Salt Lake City, Utah this August, and will be participating in the track and field events at the games.

As a member of Team Iowa, each competitor is responsible for fundraising a minimum of $500. Funds raised support the entire team’s participation in the Transplant Games. Team Iowa’s goal is to raise $100,000 and, to date, they have raised over $85,000! Iowa Lions Eye Bank is a proud Bronze Sponsor of Team Iowa and has a designated staff member on the Team Iowa Committee.

Be sure to like Joseph’s Journey Facebook Page to follow Joseph’s story and path to the Transplant Games and to find information on ways to help the Carlson family meet their fundraising goal!

Iowa Lions that raised at least $1000 for the Lions Legacy Project.

The Carlson family