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June 19, 2014 05:32 PM

Woman Meets Husband's Cornea Recipients

Sioux Falls, SD

Larry Reith was a hard working man, and according to his wife Mary, you would never catch him sitting down.

"He was looking forward to retirement when his brain cancer hit him," Mary said.

There was a small bit of hope after doctors successfully removed one of the tumors.

"The second tumor went wild in his head only six weeks before he died," Mary said.

Mary said goodbye to her husband in September. But on a rainy June weekend, she and her grandsons caught a glimpse of the man who meant so much to them. Larry chose to be an organ, eye, and tissue donor. For the first time, Mary came face to face with two women who are now living better lives, thanks to Larry.

Marilyn Flanagan, who has battled several eye problems, including Fuchs Dystrophy, now has Larry's left cornea.

"I could not read the alarm clock that sat right next to the bed. After the next day, after I'd had this, I could read the clock just as plain as day," Flanagan said.

Adrienne Rumbaugh said Fuchs Dystrophy made everything yellow and blurry. Not only did Larry's right cornea help her see again, the gift also opened her eyes in another way.

"I never had it on my license to donate. This last time I got my license, I put that on my license to donate," Rumbaugh said.

The two women joked that they are now "twins". This new bond goes even further, and proves that what goes around comes around. Both Rumbaugh and Flanagan's husbands (Flanagan has since re-married) donated their corneas when they died. 

"I knew how exciting it was to write the lady that got his eyes.  I never got to meet her, but I wrote her a letter and she wrote back.  It meant so much," Rumbaugh said.

Mary says meeting these two women is also helping her heal.

"There is something there to see that's still alive.  I know that he's gone, but I know he did a good thing," Mary said.

Even though Mary laid her husband to rest months ago, Larry Reith is still working hard to help others.

"I am proud of him.  I think of him every day," Mary said.

To find out more about how to become a donor, and give someone the gift of life, visit the South Dakota Lions Eye & Tissue Bank's website.

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