Cornea recipient gives back with the gift of sight, Life Bears
Posted December 20, 2011 in Hospital Partner News
When Sarah Tuley was four years old and in need of a cornea transplant because a virus took her vision, her grandmother gave her a little baby doll to overcome her fear of surgery. The doll meant so much to Sarah going into her operation with Dr. Anthony Lubniewski, a Washington University Medical School surgeon who transplanted her cornea at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
Now a 19-year-old college freshman, Sarah wanted to share her message of encouragement, hope and comfort with young children during their hospital stay. Sarah researched and applied for a grant, receiving $500, to purchase teddy bears. She created “Life Bears.”
With the help of Mid-America Transplant Services, Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Build-A-Bear Workshop, Sarah and Bearemy (Build-A-Bear’s huggable mascot) delivered about 50 Life Bears to children at the two children’s hospitals in November.
Dr. Lubniewski is thrilled with Sarah’s progress and her program to give back. “It’s wonderful to see how well Sarah has done over the years,” Lubniewski said. “One of the real joys of doing pediatric keratoplasty is, not only do I get to follow the patient’s transplant, but I also get to follow the lives of young people as they mature and contribute back to society. Sarah and her mother should be very proud of all that she’s accomplished.”
Actively involved with MTS volunteering to tell her story and play her flute for donor memorial events, Sarah fulfilled a dream to benefit children during a hospital stay or while undergoing surgery. “Seeing the kids smile was the best part,” Sarah said. “I’m so excited to see this project come to fruition.”
The joy on the children’s faces was priceless. The gratitude expressed by parents of the young patients was heartfelt. Sarah’s efforts created an amazing day for families – and children – who greatly appreciated a warm, caring message of comfort during a trying time in a young life.
“To see someone who has gone through a transplant, been through all the steps and then look back to help out another family, even if it’s just with a stuffed animal … It touches our hearts” said Steve Shelton, the father of six-year-old Deven Shelton who received a liver four years ago at Glennon. “For her to reach out and give a little bit like that, it means a lot to these families. And sometimes a child just needs something to give a hug to.”