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Davenport man gets second chance at sight from unlikely donor

“I’m not surprised where my eye came from.”

DAVENPORT, Iowa-- A Davenport man has been given a second chance at sight after he and his lifelong friend suffered a heartbreaking year.

73-year-old Tom White and 72-year-old Lynn Hauser have known each other since they were little.

They played against each other in little league when they were growing up in Davenport. But life took them in different directions.

Hauser traveled around the world, visiting Stockholm, Germany and Austria, often with his wife Morena.

White married his wife Pam in 1973 and bought Chuck's Tap in Davenport.

But whenever Hauser was back in town, he'd stop by Chuck's to catch up.

"This guy is an incredible, caring person. And his family's very caring," Hauser says of White.

That caring nature would be enduring, even after death. Last year, Pam, White's wife, passed away.

"She loved her grandkids and everything," White says. "She did everything for them. They kept her busy."

White says there aren't too many photos of Pam because she was always the one behind the camera with an eye for capturing moments.

Even as White was experiencing loss, Hauser was going through his own hardship.

He took a trip to El Salvador last fall with his wife.

"I picked up a parasite in my eye, and I spent a couple extra days in El Salvador, and the parasite drilled a hole through my eye," Hauser says.

He says doctors tried everything they could until he had to go in for surgery at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics.

Hauser was getting a cornea transplant.

He was slowly able to regain his sight in his left eye after a successful surgery.

"Of course they (the doctors) tell you afterward that this was not going to be successful," Hauser says. "The eye was so deteriorated they didn't expect to be able to save the eye. Again, this is a miracle from the Lord."

After recovering, Hauser stopped into Chuck's Tap to see his childhood friend.

White asked what he'd been up to. Hauser told him about the parasite and his eye transplant. White asked when he had the surgery, which was in December 2017, only a week after Pam had passed away.

"And (White) said, 'She gave her cornea to the Iowa Lion's Eye Bank,'" Hauser recalls.

"I said, 'God Lynn. That's gotta be you. The coincidences are too close,'" White says.

White didn't even know his wife was an eye donor until her death. Hauser only knew that his donor was 74 years old.

"So (Hauser) called Iowa City and said, 'I think I know the donor.' And (the woman at the eye bank) said, 'Well I've heard that before,'" White says.

Because of confidentiality reasons, the eye bank couldn't tell Hauser who the donor was. So he sent the eye bank a letter, thanking the donor. The eye bank then forwarded it on.

"They forwarded it onto me, and it was (Pam's) eye," White says.

He says the chances of winning the lottery are probably better than having this happen. The eye bank says it's the first time a donor and a recipient have known each other.

"Dr. Wagner said, when he picked it out, 'I picked out a really good cornea for you.' So obviously he did," Hauser says.

White says his wife's eye walked back into his restaurant just two months after her passing.

"It serves somebody else. That's what she wanted," he says.

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