New Jersey Father Donates Cornea to Legally Blind Son

PHOTO: Tom Bestwick was killed in a motorcycle accident in July 2012. A few days after his death, his organs and tissue was donated to those who needed them most.
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Tom Bestwick enjoyed the open road, especially the feeling he got when riding his Harley Davidson through the back roads of southern New Jersey with his son, Tom.

"It was the combination of the thrill of the ride, the freedom of not being confined in a metal box, and I'll be damned if it ain't fun," said his son.

On July 17, 2012, Tom Bestwick would ride for for the last time. His 1997 silver CMC motorcycle collided with a Buick La Saber in Quinton, N.J. He was rushed to Christiana Hospital in Delaware, but doctors could not save his life.

But his unexpected death left his family with an unexpected gift.

"I never would have even dreamed of it," said his son.

Tom Bestwick had served as a lance corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, enlisting in 1974. He worked as a hydraulics mechanic servicing planes. When his service was over, he became what his son described as a "jack of all trades." He worked as an electrician, licensed pipe fitter, and at one point, ran a farm with son Tom. "We were inseparable," said Tom, now 32.

Tom said his father was the type of person who'd give anyone anything. He donated his time to many causes. For the past 15 years, he volunteered as an Eagle Master with the Boy Scouts, and with his mother, delivered meals for Meals on Wheels.

"He always tried to give back. There was a time when I literally saw him give someone the shirt off his back," said his son.

Even in death, that statement would prove true.

In the Blink of an Eye

It was 1987, Tom was 7 years old, and the Bestwicks were celebrating another Thanksgiving in Pennsville, N.J. Tom and his younger brother, Paul, had found a Bungee cord and wanted to see just how far the giant elastic string would stretch.

"It flung back and caught me in my left eye. I went blind instantly," said Tom. "Everything happened so fast. It didn't even hurt."

For the next month, Tom wore an eye patch. Five years later, he underwent an inner ocular lens transplant -- the first in a handful of surgeries to improve his damaged sight.

"Doctors at that time questioned if the surgery would even work or not," said Tom. "I got some sight back amazingly enough. But I was legally blind."

Putting Off Surgery

For years, Tom needed surgery to correct the sight in his damaged left eye. His ophthalmologist suggested the idea of laser eye surgery to help minimize the original scarring on his cornea. But Tom hesitated to try such new technology.

"I never put a second thought into a transplant of any sort," he said. "I just figured my vision is what it is."

But his father was a registered organ donor, and Tom and his family began to wonder, what if ...

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