Sisters' Journey to Restored Sight

Sisters' Journey to Restored Sight
Gift of Sight

Sisters share many experiences as they venture through life as siblings, but very few can say they received a corneal transplant together—twice! For sisters Rebecca (Becky) Eddy and Roberta (Bobbi) Daggett of Winterset—both diagnosed with Fuchs' Corneal Dystrophy, both patients of Dr. Matthew Rauen, both needing bilateral corneal transplants—it happened just that way.

Raised in Des Moines, Becky and Bobbi’s parents both were artists and taught classes at an art center in addition to their regular jobs. “Being raised in an art family, I have always had a need to create—it is almost like needing to breathe,” states Becky. According to Bobbi, both sisters have always enjoyed “all kinds of art adventures.” Consequently, both received art degrees, each married and raised three children (Becky three sons, Bobbi three daughters), and they simultaneously spent multiple decades teaching art in the Winterset and Van Meter school districts. 

After retiring from teaching, both sisters experienced a progressive decline in their vision due to Fuchs' Corneal Dystrophy. Becky described her vision as “like looking through a rain covered windshield just before you turn on the wipers.” She realized that, as her vision worsened, her life was becoming more limited and she was feeling drained and frustrated. Likewise, Bobbi was struggling with double vision and blurriness and it was affecting her artwork, reading, sewing and driving, saying, “My husband became tired of me telling him I couldn’t see!”  

In 2019, both Becky and Bobbi were referred by their local optometrist to Dr. Matthew Rauen, a corneal surgeon at Wolfe Eye Clinic in Des Moines and Associate Medical Director of Iowa Lions Eye Bank. Dr. Rauen explained that Fuchs' Corneal Dystrophy was causing the cells in the endothelial layer of their corneas to die off, resulting in fluid build-up within their corneas and cloudy vision. Bilateral corneal transplants were necessary for both sisters in order to restore their diminishing sight.  

Becky and Bobbi with Dr. Rauen

As both sisters faced their impending surgeries, Becky shared a fond memory that continues to make them all smile. “During the months prior to surgery, nearly all our appointments with Dr. Rauen were together and in the same exam room. Both Dr. Rauen and his staff dubbed us ‘The Twins’—even though we are four years apart.”

Becky’s first transplant was scheduled for late March of 2020 and Bobbi’s for April 29th. But COVID-19 hit in March and all non-essential surgeries were shut down—Becky’s transplant was cancelled. However, Iowa’s governor lifted the ban on surgeries just five days before Bobbi’s scheduled surgery, so she would receive her new cornea! Becky was elated for her sister, but disappointed for herself.      

Sunday evening, April 26, Becky received an unexpected phone call from Wolfe Clinic, asking if she would like to reschedule her transplant surgery for Wednesday the 29th—the same day as Bobbi’s! Accepting without hesitation, Becky’s next call was to her sister to begin making plans for their transplant journey together. Nervous for the surgical procedure but elated about the possibility of better vision, they agreed it would be wonderful to share the experience from start to finish. Becky recalls, “Due to COVID-19 restrictions, no one was permitted to go in with a patient. The nurses at the surgery center put us next to each other, separated by a fabric curtain. Once we were both gowned and had our IV-lines inserted, the nurses threw open the curtain so we could talk and calm each other.” 

In the months that followed, Becky and Bobbi were incredibly grateful for their first successful corneal transplants and eager to receive their second. Both surgeries were scheduled for November 16, 2020. “We were together again, and all went well! Dr. Rauen and the nurses were fantastic!” concluded Becky.

Becky and Bobbi in their post surgery "pirate" patches

Looking back on their shared journey to restored sight, these amazing ladies agree: “It was great to go through this with my sister. Even in the dry land of COVID-19, we could talk and encourage each other, share questions and fears, and remind each other of our eye drop schedules. It was a wonderful bolster to know that the other understood as we went through the various stages of recovery, healing and change.” Bobbi adds, “It is wonderful to see again. I am so grateful to the donors and their families. We were told 20 years ago that we would just lose our sight.” Becky thinks about her donors with great awe and respect. “I am beyond grateful that they gave their loved one’s corneas to the eye bank, in the midst of their own pain and loss. Without this donation, I would be left to give up my artwork and my life would be limited in so many ways that you don’t realize until you can’t see.”


“Sisters function as safety nets in a chaotic world simply by being there for each other.”  -- Carol Saline