Editor’s note: Editor Lori E. Switaj spent last week helping her father recuperate from a cornea transplant. She urges everyone to sign up as an organ donor at the Avon Lake Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
Mario Ebanietti has the bluest eyes you’ve ever seen. The 100 percent Sicilian managed to aquire genes that let him tan like you’d expect an Italian would, but also gave him a remarkable set of baby blues to woo his wife-to-be when they met at a Valentine’s Day wedding in 1954.
Maybe it was the same set of genes that dictated his sight would begin failing in the early 1990s, but by 1994 it became clear that without a cornea transplant Mario’s blue eyes would dim and he would lose his vision forever.
“We’re planning your first surgery right after Labor Day,” his surgeon said in the summer of 1995. Transplants are one eye at a time, with recovery in between.
The reason for the timing was grim. Labor Day, one of the busiest travel days of the year, almost guaranteed a significant bump in motor vehicle deaths. The hope was that some of those who perished had given enough thought while living, to donate their organs after they died.
Mario got his left cornea transplant Labor Day weekend of 1995. In 1996, he received a donated cornea for his right eye.
The surgery is none too pleasant, but given the option, the choice was fairly easy. Mario’s new corneas gave him 15 more years of sight. Enough to move to Florida and enjoy his retirement. Enough to watch his two oldest grandchildren grow up, graduate from high school and enough to welcome four more grandchildren into the world.
Since receiving his first set, he and the woman he met on that Valentine’s Day, Rachel, continued to travel the world, settle down for Life Part II near Orlando and enjoy the kind of retirement one deserves after a lifetime of working and raising four children.
Two years ago, one of Mario’s transplanted corneas began to fail and last month his “good eye” became infected, costing him a significant portion of that eye’s vision. As the now-caretaker of Rachel, he made a decision to do what he swore he wouldn’t do again: get another cornea transplant.
So last week, just after surgery, three of his children (only one of whom got blue eyes) flew to Orlando to tend to Mario after his first “second time” transplant.
This brown-eyed girl watched as her now 79-year-old father quickly got back on his feet and into the kitchen to do what he loves: cook an Italian meal. Granted, his sight is still a bit sketchy (he poured a cup of confectioners sugar into his pasta sauce recipe instead of flour) but we hope within two months he’ll be whipping up pasta dishes with no mishaps.
Eventually, he’ll get a transplant for his other eye, and with enough luck, get back to driving around his wife of 54 years and seeing his grandchildren continue to grow.
He didn’t do this alone. In addition to his doctors, there was a 59-year-old woman who had the foresight to sign up as a donor so that others who still had plenty of life in them could get the most of it. And for her selfless act, we thank her.
So while Mario continues to recuperate, I’m asking readers to take a moment and make sure they have signed up as organ donors.
Head over to the and make sure your license indicates you’re a donor. For the eighth year in a row, the Avon Lake bureau has maintained in the state.
I can tell you firsthand that it will make a difference in someone’s life. Please...sign up today.