Every Life Has a Story

"Donation is indeed a gift that proves beyond a doubt,
out of tragedy can come hope…
out of death, new life..."

A life becomes a legacy through donation. Donor families give and grieve. The staff of the Iowa Lions Eye Bank passionately serves to facilitate donation and to recognize our beloved donors and their families. We embrace a sincere desire to exemplify and honor the final and altruistic gift from one life to another. It is our hope that in sharing the following personal stories and sentiments, we will provide comfort, inspiration and encouragement to the families and friends of our generous cornea and eye donors.

Colton R. Meyer (December 29, 2010 - December 5, 2014)

Colton Meyer was born four days after Christmas in 2010. Colton was a beautiful little boy, full of energy, who loved sharing smiles and hugs with everyone he met.

Three-year-old Colton loved dinosaurs and was well-known for “rrrawrrring”--- whether he was just entering a room or playing at the park. He and his older brother Jaxson did everything together, from the time they woke up until the time they went to bed. They ate breakfast together, sat side-by-side on the couch watching “Wild Kratts” on television, played for hours pretending they were Cheetahs, helped with chores, and at bed time, picked out their favorite books they wanted read to them. Like so many little boys his age, Colton’s favorite foods were mac-and-cheese, hot dogs, pancakes and apples.

Colton will forever be missed by his mother Tifany, father Travis, brother Jaxson, and sister Alexis. His giving spirit will forever be appreciated by countless recipients of his gifts, generously given through cornea and tissue donation.

Joel D. Higgins (February 19, 1982 - June 9, 2014)

After courageously battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia for several years, Joel David Higgins of Ames, IA died at 32 years of age. Music and technology were the center of Joel's young life. After his marriage to Jana in 2010, they realized a deep bond to each other in countless aspects of life. Joel was attentive to the little details of life, loved to make others laugh and was known to all for his patient and kind heart. He had a passion for technology and a constant desire to learn. While working as a Systems Support Specialist for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University from 2010 until 2014, Joel found enjoyment in taking photographs on campus.

"Joel had an unfailingly positive and selfless attitude when it came to his battle with leukemia and subsequent stem cell and lung transplants. When offered to him, he never hesitated to take part in a medical study and hoped that, through his illness, his doctors would gain knowledge and experience to more effectively treat patients in the future." When Joel died in June of 2014, Jana reaffirmed Joel’s commitment to helping others by donating his eyes to the Iowa Lions Eye Bank for valuable research of blinding eye disease at the University of Iowa.

Danny E. Hunziker (March 30, 1953 - November 17, 2013)

Danny Hunziker was born in Brookfield, Missouri and was a graduate of Brookfield High School.

Prior to his death in late 2013, Dan was an engineer for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad for 37 years. More than anything, Dan loved spending time with his three children and several grandchildren. He loved to fish as much as he loved to tell fish stories, and frequently shared morning coffee with other retired “railers.” Dan enjoyed building furniture, bird houses and light houses in his workshop. He was an avid collector of Harry Potter items, owning every book and movie, and was also a major fan of Duck Dynasty.

Dan’s wife, Deb, worked in the field of Ophthalmology for several years. As a result, she and Dan had conversations about donation and designated their wishes through the Illinois donor registry. When Dan died at the age of 60, his corneas restored sight to two grateful individuals and his tissues enhanced the lives of many.

Cayd Allen Sapp (March 19, 1993 - April 14, 2014)

On April 14th of 2014, 21-year-old Cayd Allen Sapp died unexpectedly in the emergency room at a Waterloo hospital. Cayd was a registered donor in Iowa and his grieving parents supported his decision to donate his corneas and tissues to provide sight and enhanced life to others in need.

When talking with Cayd’s mother Leslie about the cornea recipients who benefitted from her son’s generosity, she said, “He had the warmest brown eyes that would melt a stranger’s heart. You could see true sincerity in Cayd’s eyes.” She lovingly described her son as “a very unique, kind, generous, quirky, thoughtful, down-to-earth, handsome young man who loved his large family unconditionally.”

One of Cayd’s cornea recipients is 84-year-old Faye from northeast Iowa. Faye’s vision was deteriorating from an eye disease called Fuch’s Corneal Dystrophy; a progressive corneal disorder characterized by a cloudy waterlogged cornea, painful epithelial blisters, and reduced vision. Just two weeks after her cornea transplant, she wrote a heartfelt thank you note to her young donor’s family through the correspondence program of the Iowa Lions Eye Bank, Your loved one donated a cornea so that I can see! I’m writing to tell you what a wonderful gift that was…My vision had become so poor that I was having difficulty reading, and I love to read. I couldn’t read sheet music very well anymore, so my playing piano at the local nursing home was becoming limited. Now it’s been almost two weeks since my surgery and every day my vision improves. The grass has never seemed so green! I am so pleased and appreciative.”

When responding to Cayd’s grateful cornea recipient a few months later, Leslie wrote, I would first like to tell you how much it meant to me to receive your card. It truly comforted my hurting soul and made my heart smile…Cayd loved music, all types of music; I believe that was his way of relaxing. Cayd’s final gift was to help others and I am so proud of the choice he made in life; it speaks volumes of exactly who my son was…I am very, very happy that my son helped change your life in such a powerful way…I wish you further improvement for your vision and joy while playing beautiful music.”

David E. McCue (October 16, 1974 - November 26, 2013)

David E. McCue lived his entire life in a small town community in southwest Iowa. He celebrated his 39th birthday just one month before his tragic death. David enjoyed working on cars, trading and buying vehicles, and riding his Harley. As a young boy, he loved spending time with his grandparents—camping, fishing and playing games. He enjoyed swimming at the Shenandoah pool where he was affectionately known as “Diamond Dave”. He was currently working for a redemption center in Red Oak and was an avid Iowa Hawkeye fan. His mother fondly remembers that “he always had a smile on his face”. David was a kind person who was forever willing to help others; even to the level of helping countless people after his death through cornea and tissue donation. “What a gift you were, what a gift you gave” will be inscribed on his memorial paver within the Iowa Lions Donor Memorial & Healing Garden at UIHC; purchased with funds raised by his friends and family, to be dedicated at the Annual Dedication Ceremony in October of 2015.

Destiny Suing (October 20, 1995 – November 30, 2013)

Destiny Suing of Yankton, South Dakota, was a beautiful 18 year old young woman with a smile that could light up a room and a personality that no one could walk away from. Her grieving mother refers to her as “a social butterfly who became a friend to everyone she met”. As a child, Destiny loved “storm watching” with her grandfather, and considered her sister her best friend. She had a special love for all animals, especially horses. Destiny’s greatest achievement in life was as mother to her infant son Xaden, born just nine months before her tragic death. Her loving and nurturing nature continued after death as a cornea and tissue donor.

Only a few weeks after receiving the Gift of Sight through a cornea transplant, 53 year old recipient David from southwest Iowa wrote the following in a heartfelt letter to Destiny’s family: “Your family and your loved one must be very special and caring people. Since my transplant, I can see better out of my eye than I ever have before. I can keep my job that I love and continue to support my family of six wonderful children. On Christmas Eve, 2013, I said a special prayer for your family and my donor…Thank you with all my heart”.

Mary Jo Hagedorn-Reed (December 1, 1936 – May 20, 2013)

Mary Jo Hagedorn Reed resided in Urbandale, IA with her loving husband. From dawn to dusk her life was about giving, and that generosity was also exemplified in death; Mary Jo donated her eyes to the Iowa Lions Eye Bank, providing the Gift of Answers through valuable research of blinding eye disease.

For 37 years, Mary Jo served as Executive Secretary to the State Director of the Department of Housing and Urban Development-Federal Housing Administration, receiving numerous awards for her excellent service. She was a woman of deep faith, interested in and committed to causes of justice and peace. Always ready to offer an encouraging or consoling word and to lend a helping hand to anyone in need, Mary Jo endeared herself to all who met her. She especially enjoyed spending quality time with family and friends.

The following verse was taken from a poem written by her loving sister in the months following their family’s loss:
“She learned love in mother’s arms,
She learned love at father’s knee.
Our dear Mary Jo learned so well,
Her life became love for all to see...”

For more information please contact: Debra Schuett, Family Services Coordinator