O'Bannon Leaves Legacy of Sight

New Media Producer: Brad Maglinger

When Governor Frank O'Bannon died, what he carried in his wallet and heart that day changed lives.

Former First Lady Judy O'Bannon says, "He had in his wallet when he died a card that I had signed, someone else had signed and Frank had signed that he wanted to be a donor and he had it on his driver's license."

"Was there ever a point when you and your husband actually sat down and talked about it, and said, 'This is something I want to do.'" asks reporter Karen Hensel.

"You bet, you bet," responds Judy O'Bannon. "Years ago when he was lieutenant governor, he made the decision after seeing an organ transplant survivors' Olympics event."

One donor can help sixty to seventy other people. Governor O'Bannon donated tissue and both corneas.

"Think of that. How many corneas are just wasted and how many people need to see?" asks Judy O'Bannon. "What a wonderful thing to be able to give that. So, it was a wonderful opportunity."

For the O'Bannons, whether to be an organ donor was never a question.

"It's who we were. You don't get into public service and stand in the corner. You go because you want to contribute to the group. And this is just an expression of that. It's who he was."

To Mrs. O'Bannon, the person who will receive the corneas isn't important. "It doesn't seem to be the point of it to me. But if they want to know, I signed a piece of paper today, they ought to know that."

Judy is meeting one of the cornea recipients through this story.

Betty Linsey is a 76-year-old living near Chicago. She had lost all sight in one eye. "It broke my heart to think I was gonna be blind."

Linsey lives alone, and because she lost eyesight, she lost her driver's license and independence. The new cornea opens her world.

"Maybe God sent me an angel," Linsey says as she views photographs of the late Governor O'Bannon. Being able to see again has given her a new outlook on life.

"I want to say thank you, but, I know he can't hear me. I'll keep this, and treasure it," says Linsey as she holds one of O'Bannon's photos.

Meanwhile, Judy O'Bannon treasures memories and one particular piece of music. A CD called "Compassion," which she listened to the morning her husband died.

"I stopped working and I just listened," says Judy O'Bannon. "And the moment it was over I got the phone call he hadn't gotten up. Now, what a marvelous and an amazing thing that all that fortifying of your spirit was going on at the same hour he was having his stroke."

The music and the memories that Frank still lives on. The moments she now cherishes. "If they use his corneas, I'd like to see through his eyes."

For more information on how you can become a donor, click here.