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InSights

Wendy and Tim’s Story, Part 2

The following is the second in a two-part story of the special connection between the family of tissue donor, Tim Page, and the recipient of his donated corneal tissue, Wendy Bolling.

Timothy Nathaniel Page, Jr., was a loving person. He loved his family — his father, his mother, his sister and his four daughters and nieces and nephews. He loved food. He loved to tell jokes. He always had a smile on his face. He loved the Lord. And he loved people.

“To meet him was to know him,” says his mother, Sararecia Long. “He was a funny, bubbly person and was well-liked.” Although his life changed when his father passed away, he tried to stay strong, and made sure to be present in his daughters’ lives. TJ and his sister had a bond like no other. “I love my son. And nothing would ever change that,” she adds.

According to Sararecia, Tim and his sister, Teioyannah Page, were very close. And she is glad that they were able to share that bond over the years. “My birthday in 2021 was the last time I saw him,” says Sararecia.

A month later, Tim passed away. However, his loving spirit lives on through the wonderful memories of him and through his decision earlier in life to be an organ donor. In fact, it didn’t take long for that act of selfless generosity to make a difference in someone else’s life.

Only weeks after Tim’s passing, his cornea tissue was used to help restore Wendy Bolling’s vision through life-changing transplant surgery.

Wendy, who had struggled with her vision nearly her entire life, was able to regain her independence and was inspired to reach out through Miracles In Sight to express her gratitude for what this amazing gift had made possible for her.

While donor families can and often do choose to share stories of their loved ones, Tim’s mother was interested to know that her son’s choice to be an organ donor had been able to make a difference for someone. And with Wendy eager to get in touch, Sararecia and Teioyannah agreed to talk with her.

Tim’s family and met Wendy (along with her mother) in October 2023, nearly two years after he passed away and made the gift that restored Wendy’s sight. The group shared lunch at a

 popular restaurant in Burlington, NC, enjoying a beautiful afternoon together and forming a special relationship that Wendy and Sararecia intend on nurturing for years to come.

“The morning before we met, I was a nervous wreck,” says Wendy. “But it was like we had known them for years. They are wonderful people. I can never thank them enough.”

“To say that it was a blessing would be an understatement,” says Sararecia. Our family would like to thank Miracles In Sight for standing by us and guiding us through this difficult transition. May God forever bless you.

If you want to read more about Wendy’s experience as a transplant recipient, you can find her story in Part 1 here.

Donor Family Story: Dorcus Knuckles

You wanted to know about my mother. She was a beautiful and kind woman. She also was a God-fearing woman and never knew a stranger. She would carry a conversation with you, like she had known you her whole life. 

She had a heart of gold and would do anything to help a person in need. I think coffee was her favorite drink, lol. She has seven kids and a beloved cat smoky that truthfully was just like her 8th kid. That was who our beloved mother was.

Thank you for giving us the chance to tell you about her and letting her be a donor. She would have been so happy to be able to help someone else. 

Donor Family Story: Emily Beyea

Emily Beyea was only 10 years old when she passed away. However, in that time she managed to spread a lifetime of love, caring, joy and silliness throughout her world. “She was a sassy, outspoken, beautiful, activist, who saw the world as it should be… and saw the best in people,” says her mom, Tyler.

Emily’s love for helping others made her family’s choice to donate her organs and eye tissue an obvious one.

From an early age, she found many causes to get involved with, from sea turtle care to national park conservation to polar bear protection. She was a regular volunteer at the nonprofit Tyler works for, which feeds children at risk for hunger. Emily even created an “adopt-a-thon” there where each child could “adopt” a stuffed animal — most of which were from her own collection.

She loved the sand and the sea, enjoying vacations with her mom, dad (Bill) and older brother (Billy) to Jockey’s Ridge in the Outer Banks. And she was always joking, making funny videos and talking with anyone she met. “She was the silliest person you would ever meet,” Tyler explains. “Emily just loved doing simple things. She brought so much brightness into the world.”

Although an undiagnosed food allergy took her life, Emily lives on in many ways through the immeasurable amount of compassion, happiness and generosity she inspired around her. Emily’s family still comes across funny video clips of her that she didn’t get around to sharing with them. They continue to contribute to causes she supported, and they draw strength from knowing that she would want them to keep reaching out to help others. “It can be hard to get out of bed some days,” says Tyler. “But I know Emily would be none too pleased if I didn’t.”

Because of how Emily lived to help people, the decision to donate wasn’t even a question. Of course, it is what Emily would have wanted them to do. And it provides them with some measure of comfort to know that her eyes and heart have made a life-changing difference for others.

“Knowing there are people out there who see and live through her, helps so much in our healing,” says Tyler. “Her expressive eyes, who saw the world in a different way, full of wonder and whimsy, and her huge heart, used to love and be loved by all.”

The heartbreak of losing their daughter led Tyler and Bill to start a local chapter of Compassionate Friends, a support group and network for parents who have lost children. The couple is also active in allergy awareness and organ donor organizations. “The lessons Emily has taught us are: Be Kind, Live Simply and Be Silly,” Tyler adds. “This is how we try to get through each day without her.”

Donor Family Story: William Chapman

William Chapman (Willie) is my Husband. He is a Loving, Funny, and respectful guy. That I truly love a lot. We knew each other more than 20yrs. Before we settle down. Got married in May 15, 2009. He is also an Uncle and the Baby Brother, to 5 Sisters and 1 Older Brother. In which, He will be Loved and Missed a lot.

Wendy and Tim’s Story, Part 1

Wendy Bolling began struggling with her vision early in life. When her sight took a turn for the worse in 2021, she had corneal transplants that gave her back her independence and led to the start of an amazing relationship with the family of the donor, Timothy Page, jr., who made her gift of sight possible.

Wendy remembers wearing glasses when she was in third grade, and later having to wear hard contact lenses due to her severe astigmatism. When she was 19 years old, she had Radial Keratotomy (RK)* surgery, which successfully improved her vision. However, 20 years later her vision dramatically changed, becoming as bad as it had been before her RK surgery.

“My vision did a 180,” Wendy explains. “My corneas were so distorted there was not a good prescription that would allow me to see clearly. Everything, even with glasses, always looked distorted or fuzzy.” In 2020, she tried new scleral lenses which helped but were uncomfortable and hard to maintain.

Then in July 2021, a bacterial infection began to rob Wendy of what vision she had left. By August, she was essentially blind and in constant pain. The infection had made daily life extremely difficult. Not only could she not drive or work, she suffered severe migraines that forced her to be in a dark, quiet room. Her mother moved in with her to help. “If was hard to have to depend so much on others,” she adds.

Thanks to her doctors at Duke University Eye Center, medication slowly cleared up the infection. But it became apparent that Wendy would require corneal transplants in both eyes to regain her sight.

“When the doctor told me I would need corneal transplants, my heart sank,” she says. “I thought ‘oh, my gosh, what if they don’t take, what if it doesn’t work and I am never going to see again?’ I was so nervous, but I knew I had the best doctor. And he would make sure it all went well.”

The transplant on her left eye was done in late October and four days later, Wendy was already seeing more clearly than ever. “It was remarkable! To be blind and receive the gift of sight again… I was so grateful that it is hard to even put into words!”

The transplant on her right eye was done in early January with the same positive results. By March, Wendy was able to drive, work a full day and live her life again. “I felt as though I was given another chance,” she says.

Like many transplant recipients, Wendy was inspired by the gift she received to reach out in gratitude to the families whose loved ones had made her miracle possible through eye donation. With the donor family’s permission, Wendy was able to get in touch with Tim’s mother, Sararecia Long, as well as his sister, Teioyannah Page.

Wendy and Tim’s family, including his mother, his sister and his daughters, met for a beautiful afternoon this past October. And when they met, “it was like we had known them for years,” says Wendy. “They are wonderful people. I can never thank them enough.”

For Tim’s mother, the opportunity to connect with Wendy and to know that her son had made a difference in someone’s life was more than a blessing. “To say that it was a blessing would be an understatement,” says Sararecia. “I love my son. He was a loving person — loved his family, loved his daughters, loved the Lord. And he was well liked… to meet him was to know him.”

Wendy and Sararecia both agreed that they should get together every year. However, they both doubted that they would be able to wait that long to see each other again.

Read more about Tim in the upcoming Wendy and Tim’s Story, Part 2.

*Radial Keratotomy (RK) is a surgical procedure designed to re-shape the cornea to improve the patient’s vision.

Donor Family Story: Percy Ethan-Todd Brooks

Percy Ethan-Todd Brooks

June 12, 2000 – June 22, 2023

Loving, kind, caring, adventurous, spontaneous, free-spirited, humorous, dedicated, courageous. 

These are only a few of the words that I would use to describe my brother, Ethan. My name is Cierrah and for 23 years, I was Ethan’s protector. He called me Cissy, a name that has stuck with me since. Ethan’s parents are Todd and Nicolette. No amount of words could describe the love we have for Ethan. From the time he was born, Ethan lived his life to the fullest. He never saw fear or danger. He only saw opportunity. A character trait that many may view as a negative is one of my favorite things about my brother. 

In the past few weeks I’ve learned a lot about Ethan and the kind of person that others perceived him to be. I have been able to see him for more than just my brother, but the kind of man he had grown into. I have heard time and time again of the kindness and generosity that was shown by him. At his funeral, someone mentioned to me that they had never seen so many people at a funeral. In truth, I had not either. We were most definitely expecting a large group just because of the amount of friends Ethan had made within the biker community. However, the amount of people that showed up for our sweet boy, left us speechless. 

Ethan was employed at Campbell Soup and was known by the majority of the staff there. They describe him as a hard worker, always with a smile, and having the unique ability to make you laugh in any sort of situation. I was told by several of his staff members there that while he was the youngest on the line, he was also one of the top paid employees. Only while being there a short time, he had managed to work himself up into higher paid positions. He most certainly worked a lot and often took several additional hours of overtime. This afforded him opportunities to meet more than just the regular staff that was employed during his normal shift. It goes without saying, Ethan had a dedication to his job and a work ethic that was unmatched. This is something that I have always believed that our daddy instilled in us as young children. Prior to working at the plant, Ethan was employed at Honda as a car salesman. At only 19 years old, he was named the top car salesman at his location. 

Ethan absolutely loved to be outdoors and had a big heart for his two Belgian Malinois, Ace and Gunner. It was a rare occurrence for you to see Ethan and not see his two pups following behind him. Ethan’s birthday was on June 12th and one of his closest friends shared with me that his only request for a birthday dinner was that his pups be allowed to join them. He trained them himself and this allowed him to take them into the public as he pleased. Ethan had a great sense of adventure. By the time he was 3, he could already ride a bicycle without training wheels. As he got older, he found a love for various atv’s and motorcycles. When he was not at work, you could find him riding his red Harley Davidson, fishing or even hunting with his “boys”. 

On June 18, 2023, my baby brother was in a motorcycle accident. When we got the call, I of course ran to find him, but while I was worried, I still believed he was going to be just fine, like he always was. You really just had to know Ethan to understand why I say this. He was once in a 4-wheeler accident where he’d hit a stop sign in the dark going 70-80 miles per hour. After the accident, he returned to the scene and took the stop sign home with him. He still had it, to this day. I never could have imagined that his motorcycle accident would have led me to this moment. After the motorcycle accident, his family was informed that he had severe brain trauma, swelling and bleeding on his brain. This meant that there was a certain time where Ethan had lost oxygen from his neck and above. There was nothing they were able to do for him and told us to prepare to say goodbye. This was the darkest moment of my life by far. I am 26 years old, three years older than Ethan. In all of those years, I had never experienced heartbreak like I did in those words. Even now, when I really think about what has occurred in the past month, my brain just cannot comprehend those words. For nearly a week, I sat, ate, and slept in a hospital room next to my baby brother. Even though the organ donation was already received and scheduled, my heart still hoped for a miracle for him. I waited and waited for him to open his eyes and wake up to all the crazy things we’d filled his room with. He was such a tough guy on the outside and we frequently joked about him hating everything we had decorated the room with. Day after day, the hospital was flooded with strangers that we had never met, but people that shared their most precious moments that they had spent with Ethan. Even in those moments of heartbreak between his family and his friends it made me so happy to know just how loved he was by others.

I hope that in reading this letter you can see the life that Ethan lived and know that he would have made the exact same decisions that his sister did. Never did I imagine that I would have to make these decisions. In fact, up front, I have always said no to organ donation. It was just always one of those things that seemed wrong. But, when I was told my brother was not coming back my mission became making sure that he lived on, regardless of what way. The decision to make him an organ donor was effortless for me. While I was saddened to be losing my brother, my heart rejoiced at the idea of not only allowing him to continue living, but in the fact that we had the ability to allow him to save the lives of so many other people. Up to the very morning of Ethan’s procedure, I was still pondering ways in which he may be able to help someone else. This was the moment in which we made the decision to donate Ethan’s corneas. As soon as the thought presented itself to me in the hospital, I knew this was the right thing for Ethan. We were calling him a miracle the day of his accident and we are still calling him one now. You, your life, your purpose, you are a part of his miracle. No amount of thank you’s or appreciation could ever explain the gratitude I hold in my heart for you.

More than anything, I want you to know that your life is special. Your life is valuable. I am thankful for your life. This paper I was given speaks about survivor’s guilt, but I want you to know there is no reason for you to have anything of the sort. You’re probably thinking that I don’t understand because I am not in your shoes and you are most definitely right. But in the very end, there was nothing I wanted more for my brother than to be able to give his life for others and in my heart, I know he would have done the same for me.

My greatest wish for you is that you live life just like he did-

Freely, happily, and like everyday is your last.

 

With Love,

Cierrah (Ethan’s Cissy)

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