Miguel's diagnosis of corneal disease was a long time coming.
Miguel, who was born and raised in Mexico, started suffering from poor vision at an early age. As his eyesight worsened he was prescribed increasingly thicker glasses in order to see. When a doctor finally diagnosed Miguel with keratoconus, he also told him that eventually the disease would cost him his sight. Miguel began preparing himself for a future of blindness. Already, his vision was blurred. It was only a matter of time before it faded altogether.
Fate intervened when Miguel's father immigrated to the United States to find work. At the age of 14, Miguel joined him so he could assist his father as an interpreter. He enrolled in high school but could barely see the blackboard, even from the front row. When the opportunity for a free eye exam came his way, Miguel jumped at it. It was during that exam that he learned he didn't need glasses. He needed a cornea transplant.
The idea that blindness was not inevitable gave Miguel hope for the first time. He stopped skipping classes at school. The Northwest Lions Foundation paid for the cost of a transplant for his badly damaged left eye and by late spring of his junior year, Miguel stood confidently before his classmates and shared his experience. After additional surgery on his right eye a year later, Miguel could see clearly again. Miguel graduated from high school and not only got a job, but returned to school later to study music.
Miguel didn't initially think much about his cornea donor, but when he learned it came from a University of Washington undergraduate who was quite close to him in age, the donation suddenly became very meaningful to him. "That's when I decided I wanted to write his family and thank them," he says. "I carry his story with me everywhere."
One of the best parts of Miguel's day, he says, is when he wakes up in the morning. It is at that moment, when he first opens his eyes, that he remembers he can see again.Give Now