Thirty-four year old Stacey Waldron sits beside her husband on a park bench in an Alexandra park.
"Can you see Jack?", she asks him before spotting her five-year-old son herself in the distance playing on the jungle gym with his older sister Annajhay.
Most people take for granted the ability to watch their children play - not Stacey.
Stacey suffers from the eye disease Keratoconus which affects the cornea (the front surface) of the eye.
The condition causes the cornea to distort into a cone-shape and vision to blur. As the condition progresses - vision gets worse. Put simply, Stacey was losing her sight.
Stacey says she was 16 years old when she was diagnosed with Keratoconus.
"My vision was deteriorating and by the time I was 20 I started wearing contacts. They took a lot to get used to and there were times I was in tears because my eyes were so sore. I was able to manage it with hard contact lenses and in one eye I had two contact lenses - it's called a piggy back system - because the cornea was so bad."
Stacey's eyes were deteriorating so badly, she was referred to professor Charles McGhee - a senior ophthalmic surgeon based in Auckland - who told her she would need a cornea transplant.
"At the time it took a little bit to process, but people get diagnosed with things 10 times worse every day, so I was like - let's just get on with it."
Three months out from the operation, the national eyebank contacted her to say it did not have a cornea.
"Then six weeks out they rang and said, âit's all go - we have got one'. It was quite emotional receiving the cornea. Even though it's only a cornea, it was still a process to get through myself receiving another bit of someone, but I was so pleased it could happen.
"I will be eternally grateful to the person who put their hand up - and their family. I can see my kids ride a bike, I can ride a horse, get in the car and drive, I can do every day normal things everyone else can do and that is a gift in itself."
After the operation, she still remembers the bright colours around her.
"My eyesight had got so bad and I remember the colours being amazing."
It has been two years since the operation, but the journey is far from over. On Friday, dozens of tiny stitches will be removed from her eye, and her other eye is still deteriorating.
"Hopefully technology will be further ahead by the time I need (a cornea transplant) in the other eye and they might be able to grow cells from my own body."
Stacey's donor is anonymous, and she is anonymous to the donor's family. However, she was able to write a letter to thank them for the gift, she says.
She hopes sharing her story will make others consider becoming donors and to make their wishes clear to their family.
Last year, 36 donors agreed to organ donation, Organ Donation New Zealand figures show.
Of those, 22 also donated tissues as well as organs. As a result, 108 people received an organ transplant, including 18 who received a lung transplant - the largest number in any year since lung transplantation began in New Zealand in 1993.
There was also a 54 per cent increase in tissue-only donors (eyes, heart valves and skin) last year, with 57 tissue-only donors in 2013, compared with 37 in 2012.
By Jo McKenzie-McLean, The Southland Times
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