Tucson man meets family of cornea donor

Tucson man meets family of cornea donor

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The back porch of Larry Kincaid’s home is more like a front-row seat - to the hummingbirds, roadrunners, pretty much anything that stops for a while. And when they do, Kincaid doesn’t miss the chance to capture them.

“I’m not very good at it, but I’ll set it to manual setting. I have a book that tells me what I should do, stuff like that," Kincaid said.

He’s being modest when he says he doesn’t have an eye for photography. But it was only a few months ago when squinting through the viewfinder almost became impossible.

“I went in for one eye exam and he said, ‘Boy, it’s begin to speed up again.’”

Kincaid has Fuch’s Dystrophy, a disease of the cornea. He vision first deteriorated in his left eye until he received his first cornea transplant five years ago. The surgery made a tremendous difference, since the retired Air Force veteran and General Electric executive is very active in the Tucson community. He helps other seniors master the technology that keeps them connected to loved ones and each other.

But this disease commonly affects both eyes, and this year it spread to his right eye. He needed another donation, and in March doctors found their match.

The DiPietro family of Massachusetts lost their leader, Frank, a father, husband, grandfather, who was taken too soon by a heart attack. The family received a call, asking if they’d be willing to donate his corneas. New England Donor Services recovered DiPietro’s corneal tissue and delivered it to CorneaGen. CorneaGen assessed and prepared the corneal tissue to be transplanted at a lab in Boston and arranged for it to be delivered to Kincaid’s surgeon, Dr. Sanan, in Tucson the morning of his surgery.

CorneaGen also encouraged and facilitated letter writing between Kincaid and the DiPietro family and then arranged a virtual meeting.

“All of us decided that this would be a good thing to do and we’re very happy that we did," said DiPietro’s wife, Deb.

Kincaid’s new vision was put to work when he logged onto the computer and met the family for the first time.

“I’m truly am so glad I’m able to see you guys," Kincaid said over the virtual meeting. “And that’s a gift you gave me. I get very emotional.”

Joined by DiPietro’s three children, Deb DiPietro and Sanan, stories began being shared. Of what DiPietro enjoyed and the handyman he was. Making these two men more of a match then they realized.

“He’s my kind of guy that’s exactly what I’ve done," Kincaid said.

Kincaid thinks perhaps in another life, these two would have gotten along just fine.

“We would have been great friends,” he said.

And despite the fact that the two will never meet, the connection will always be there, allowing the two families to view life and loss through a different lens.

“A lady gave me the left one and Frank D. gave me the right one. Now I am part of two people that are helping me enjoy life,” he said.

For more on cornea donation and transplants: https://corneagen.com/

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