DALLAS — Five days before Thanksgiving, 15-year-old Flower Mound resident Emma Weatherford returned to UT Southwestern to say "thank you."
Doctors restored her eyesight, thanks to a donor family who made the difficult decision to donate their loved one's corneas.
Emma admits she was nervous during the visit, but her nerves calmed once she got behind the piano. Music is her outlet, and it's the biggest sign that her life is getting back to normal.
Last January — without warning — sight in Emma's right eye became very blurry, hindering her ability to read or play her favorite instrument.
"If I wanted to read, I had to actually put my face on the page to make out the words," she said. "It was kinda weird."
She was diagnosed with a genetic eye disorder called keratoconus, a thinning of the cornea. Doctors said her only hope was to get a corneal transplant
"It was just really strange," she said. "It didn't seem like something that would happen to someone my age."
By July, Emma was in surgery, and became one of the more than 1,200 people this year who received corneal transplants at UT Southwestern.
Emma will never meet her donor, but she hopes to meet his or her family. She recently sent them a letter expressing her gratitude.
"I said that I was very sorry that they lost a relative", Emma said, describing the letter. "I really appreciate them."
As Emma's left eye improves, her mom said doctors are closely watching her other eye; it's showing early signs of degeneration.
But her family is not worried; Emma believes she's in good hands.
"I'm just really lucky that we have just good doctors in Dallas, and it can be fixed very easily, really," Emma said.
To learn more about becoming a donor, visit UT Southwestern's Transplant Services Facebook page.