A cornea transplant saved Jim Pender’s vision — inspiring him and his wife to make a gift advancing sight-saving research.

Kathy and Jim Pender's gift is helping to develop custom surgical planning tools to optimize patient outcomes and improve the chances of restoring a person's vision and quality of life.

>> Jim Pender is grateful every day for what he can see: his wife’s smile … the colors of a sunset ... his grandchildren in action …

“I never experienced the inability to see,” he says. “I did, however, get a life-changing hint of the consequences of losing one’s vision.”

And so did his wife, Kathy.

“It was dusk, and we were going somewhere with Jim driving,” she says. “I relaxed for a little while, but soon I discovered that Jim couldn’t see the signs and that the lights were creating such a glare that he seemed blinded.”

She asked him how long this had been going on, and he told her "quite some time." Worried, she advised him to have his eyes examined.

The Diagnosis

>> At Cleveland Clinic’s Cole Eye Institute, Jim was diagnosed with Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy — a condition in which the innermost cell layer of the cornea fails and the cornea becomes swollen and cloudy, causing light scattering, glare and loss of visual contrast and color definition.

To restore his vision, Jim had a cornea transplant in his right eye. Two years later, he developed similar problems in his left eye and had another transplant.

“By replacing the dysfunctional cell layer, the transplants reversed the visual effects of the disease,” says his surgeon, William Dupps, MD, PhD.

Jim credits his restored vision not only to “the skills of the staff at Cole Eye Institute” but also “to generous organ donors” who made his transplants possible.

“Taking the step to become an organ donor is a selfless act of generosity that has the potential to dramatically improve the life of another person,” Dr Dupps says. “It’s an incredible living legacy to pass on to another human being.”

A Visionary Gift

>> To thank Dr. Dupps and Cleveland Clinic, the Penders have established an ophthalmology research fund in their name. It supports the work of Dr. Dupps and his team in the Ocular Biomechanics and Imaging Laboratory at the Cole Eye Institute, where they’re developing customized surgical planning tools to predict and improve patient outcomes.

“Through the Penders’ generosity, we’ll be able to accelerate these efforts and bring this approach to clinical trials,” says Dr. Dupps.

By helping to advance the science of seeing, the Penders hope to do for others what Cleveland Clinic did for Jim.

“I’ve always valued my health, and I’ve certainly never taken my eyesight for granted,” Jim says. “However, it’s a far different matter to actually experience a partial loss of vision and to get hints of not being able to perform routine tasks. I was there, but thanks to Cole Eye Institute, I’m not dealing with those limitations now.”

Make a Gift

As research grants disappear and funding sources become more limited, philanthropy is more important than ever to generate advances in medicine. >> Help Cleveland Clinic continue to innovate healthcare. Give now.