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Cornea recipient
Age 51 ~ Elk Grove, CA
DMV manager

Sponsored by Donate Life California and California Department of Motor Vehicles

For years, Jan Barney wore contact lenses that ultimately scratched his eyes severely. Cornea transplants kept him from blindness and gave him back his sight, which was essential for Jan’s work with the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Jan's Story

Jan Barney had worn gas-permeable (hard) contact lenses for most of his life. But 10 years ago, his eyes became severely irritated due to scratches from dirt on the lenses. Glasses would not work, and despite treatment, the scratches did not heal.

Frustrated with the situation, Jan obtained a second opinion from ophthalmologist, Dr. Mary Beth Moore. Within 15 seconds, Dr. Moore diagnosed Jan’s condition as keratoconus, in which the corneas become cone-shaped rather than their normal oval shape. This was the primary cause of the scratches on his eyes, as the contact lenses were not resting eyes properly on his eyes. Without cornea transplants, his condition would worsen to the point where he would soon be unable to drive. Complete blindness could occur.

Jan was placed on a waiting list for a donor cornea. His left eye, which was worse, would be transplanted first. “I was naturally uneasy about the idea of eye surgery, but the doctor reassured me that the procedure is common and that the success rate is about 90%,” Jan said.

On September 25, 1998, he received a call from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to say that he had been chosen for a new position. It was a lucky day, because a few minutes later, Dr. Moore called to say they had found the perfect cornea match. Surgery was scheduled for 6:00 the next morning.

The morning after surgery, the bandages were removed. “I looked at the eye chart on the wall in front of me and began to cry,” said Jan. “This was the first time I could see the big E on the top of the chart clearly without contact lenses or glasses in years. My vision had improved from 20/2500 to 20/30.” Six weeks after the surgery, he started his new job. Jan’s eye would need about one year to heal completely.

Three years later, Jan had surgery on his right eye. “This surgery was basically the same as my first one. However, Dr. Moore was able to schedule me for my second cornea transplant surgery just as if it were a routine office visit.

“I am extremely grateful that organ donor programs are getting the recognition they deserve for the positive impact their resources have on so many lives today. I highly recommend everyone to consider designating themselves as organ donors.”