2016 Miguel Santos


Cornea and Tissue Recipient

Age 54 ~ Buffalo, NY

Consumer Advocate (Social Worker)

Honored by unyts.org

On December 20, 1993 Miguel’s first born son, Jacob, was born. Thanks to a cornea transplant two months prior, he was able to see his child.  Miguel was diagnosed with Keratoconus, a degenerative disorder of the eye which in the late 1980s eventually leads to that eye being declared blind.  Thanks to his life changing transplant, Miguel began volunteering at Unyts in order to spread the word of his experience to donor families, transplant recipients, and medical professionals.  In 2013 Miguel received another successful transplant of tissue to rebuild the gums in his mouth.    Now, Miguel serves as the Deacon for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, providing him with an even larger platform to share the work of Unyts.

Miguel’s Story

Miguel Santos was diagnosed with keratoconus, a degenerative disorder of the eye in which structural changes within the cornea cause it to thin and change to a more conical shape than the more normal gradual curve. This diagnosis in the late 1980s eventually leads to being declared legal blind in one eye.  On October 8, 1993, at the age of 33 Miguel had a cornea transplant returning sight to the affected eye.  He does not know who donated the cornea, but the lasting impact of that gift was fully realized at the sight of his first born son Jacob on December 20, 1993.

Miguel related to this unknown donor in profound ways and it lead him to volunteer at Unyts where he happily provided motivational talks on his experience to donor families, transplant recipients and medical professionals. Sometimes, his son Jacob would accompany him.  Miguel also has served as a reassuring voice to those who would receive a transplant by tamping down their fears and worries.

Miguel received a second successful transplant in 2013; gums for his mouth. He is diabetic and had worn away some of his gum revealing nerve endings.  In 2015, Miguel was voted on to the board for Unyts in Buffalo, New York.  He recently gave a motivational talk to Unyts employees at their annual meeting. He expressed his gratitude for what every employee does and how all recipients are indebted to the work they do.

Miguel’s recent ordination as a deacon in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo has allowed for a new platform to share the good work of Unyts.  He encourages everyone to consider donation.  New York State lags behind most states in organ donation and Miguel has made a personal commitment to share the message of organ and tissue donation in every part of the community.