Jill Dillman-Stull

Nurse’s health scare deepens commitment to encouraging organ and tissue donation

As a flight nurse and trauma prevention outreach coordinator for Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center, Jill Dillman-Stull sees the reach of human kindness and the circle of life and death on a regular basis. And, 15 years ago, she became a link in that chain herself.

It was in 2008 when Dillman-Stull had an eye infection that she did not become aware of until it was time to take out her contacts.

“When I went to remove my contact lens, it was seared to my cornea,” she told WTAJ-TV in Altoona. “When I went to remove it, I tore off half of my eye, basically.”

After the initial shock of the trauma, it took a full year of healing before her right eye was ready to accept a cornea transplant. Thanks to a stranger’s kindness and generosity in donating it, the cornea saved her sight.

“I thank my donor, even though I don’t know who they are, every day,” she said. “For I get to take care of other people, now that I can see. “

National Nurses Week is a time to reflect on the care nurses like Dillman-Stull provide to their communities, even when they face their own health care difficulties. The entire experience reinforced her resolve to spread the message that donating tissue or organs changes lives.

“People see me as a flight nurse. They see me taking care of them. They don’t know that someone basically had to die to give me part of their eye so I can continue to take care of them. It completes the circle,” Dillman-Stull told WTAJ-TV. “I just want us all to do our part. I don’t want anyone to have to wait for the gift of life or vision or tissue because there’s no reason to wait.”

Anyone can be an organ donor, and one donor can save up to eight lives, restore sight to two people through cornea donation and heal more than 75 lives through tissue donation. It takes just a minute to register.