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“He is still able to help people” –Trucker’s organ donation gives gift of sight to Florida mother


A Florida woman can see again after receiving a cornea donation from a Texas truck driver.

Kelly Bennett, a 37-year-old construction law attorney, and mother of three received the organ donation in September.

Bennet was recently given the chance to thank Trey Tichacek’s family for the donation during an hour-long emotional video conference call.

Tichacek was a 32-year-old long-haul truck driver from Texas who died suddenly of a heart attack in September. According to his family, Tichacek was a fun-loving, happy and generous “gentle giant” standing 6-foot-4-inches tall.

Trey’s siblings on the call, Mark, Sean, Chelsea, and Hayven Tichacek described their brother as someone who loved his family and loved to go to work every day behind the wheel of his truck.  Trey lived with his Dad, Carl Tichacek, also a trucker and owner of Tichacek Trucking.

On September 30, a few days after his unexpected death, Tichacek’s cornea was transplanted to Bennett’s left eye.

Bennett suffers from a rare disease called Acanthamoeba Keratitis, an inflammation that took away her sight in her left eye and caused her to be ill and nauseated.

“There are truly not even enough things I can say about how thankful I am for the donation and also to get to meet with you and to learn more,” Bennett, said to The Palm Beach Post. “It has changed my life more than I can even describe.”

The call was led by Bernie Iliakis, president of Seattle-based CorneaGen, which delivered the cornea to Palm Beach Gardens. Bennett’s surgeon Dr. Helayna Brown, a Palm Beach Gardens ophthalmologist, and Samantha Colborn, director of the Lions Eye Bank at Baylor College of Medicine, where Tichacek’s cornea was recovered, also all participated on the call.

“When they told me they found someone for Trey’s cornea, I broke down and started crying. I think that’s amazing and even after he is gone, he is still able to help people,” Mark Tichacek said to WPBF 25 News.

Tichacek’s other cornea was donated to a recipient whose identity is not being revealed.

“It’s something I hope in meeting me and learning about my life and my kids, I could give them a little bit of comfort at least knowing that Trey’s life is going on in this way,” Bennett said.


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