Cornea & Kidney Recipient
Fort Worth, Texas
Iona Smith has been on both sides of the organ and tissue donation story – as a donor family member and as a recipient.
While in her early forties, Iona had keratoconus: a progressive eye disease that causes the cornea to weaken and become cone-shaped. She wore contacts and glasses as long as she could but eventually became legally blind.
A cornea transplant in each eye restored her vision, and she became her independent self once more.
When Iona’s younger brother, Steven Rice, passed away in 2003, her parents donated his organs and tissues as a gift of life and love.
“Love is an action,” Iona said. “And giving the organs of a loved one or leaving your organs for donation is the ultimate act of love.”
Little did she know, organ donation would save her life next. Iona had been fighting to control high blood pressure since giving birth to her daughter, Thenisha. This was hard on her kidneys and so was the blood pressure medication. A new doctor tried to find a better medication, but her kidney function still dipped lower and lower. Iona soon had to go on dialysis, where she stayed for two and a half years before she could even get her name on the waiting list for a new kidney in November 2016.
She finally received her new organ for the new year on Jan. 2, 2017, at Medical City Fort Worth.
Now, she can appreciate the little things in life – like being able to drink several glasses of water in a day without worrying about fluid buildup and plummeting blood pressure.
“I felt that God had given me a new lease on life,” she said. “I was sad when I thought about the family that had lost their loved one, but I was grateful that their love was so great and expansive that they gave, that someone may live a fuller life and better life.”
Iona also says the gift has inspired her to give more of herself.
“I am overwhelmed by the generosity and love that a stranger gave to me. The transplant has awakened my heart to the needs of others without expecting anything in return.”
Specifically, Iona lives and gives through her work. With a master’s degree in theology and ministry, she serves on the ministerial staff at St. James AME Church and as a chaplain for the Phoenix Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol. She is also exercising to build up her stamina, so she can increase her volunteer work as a LifeGift Ambassador of Hope and serve as a chaplain at Medical City Fort Worth, where she hopes to help fellow transplant patients through the recovery process.