Cameron Whittle Encourages Others to Pay it Forward

At just three years old, Cameron Whittle began experiencing visual difficulties including photosensitivity, eye irritation, draining and swelling. At age 13, Cameron was diagnosed with keratoconus and, over time, the disease led to vision loss and corneal tissue scarring. Luckily, in June 2014, after completing his freshman year at Goldey-Beacom, Cameron had a successful corneal transplant surgery and regained vision in his left eye. Cameron believes in paying it forward and honors his cornea donor by volunteering at Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley. In 2016, Cameron participated in the Transplant Games of America in Cleveland, Ohio, where he took first place in the 1,500 meter race! In 2018, Cameron was also selected as the face of the national Eye Donation Month campaign.

Gift Sets Girl with Rare Condition on an Easier Path

Jana was born with an extremely rare eye condition. At birth, her left eye resembled a blue marble, but as days and weeks went by, the eye began to grow in size. By the time she was 8 DRweeks old, it had become so large that she could not close her lid, and skin began to form over the eye. After an examination, Jana’s doctor recommended that the skin growth be removed from Jana’s eye. During surgery, however, it was discovered that in addition to the skin growth, Jana had no cornea. Her doctor proceeded with a cornea transplant that was made possible by a donation to Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley. Jana’s family is forever grateful to their donor family. In a letter to the donor family, Jana’s mother Eileen wrote, “We want to thank you for giving our daughter a new cornea that has enabled her to lead a normal life. Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the generous gift you gave to our newborn daughter.”

Transplant Recipient’s Life Turns Around

While living in Baltimore in 1976, Carmen Perez started to experience eye problems and learned she had Fuchs’ dystrophy, a slowly progressing corneal disease. Over the next few decades, Carmen’s vision began to deteriorate. She developed cataracts, and after surgery, her condition worsened. Eventually, she knew it was time for a cornea transplant. In 2008, Dr. Christopher Rapuano performed a transplant in Carmen’s left eye. She said the difference was “immediate and incredible.” She had a transplant on her right eye in 2013 and was able to see clearly out of both eyes for the first time in many years. As a result of her good fortune, Carmen decided to designate herself as a donor on her driver’s license. To anyone who needs a cornea transplant, Carmen urges them not to be afraid about the surgery. “Nerves are normal,” she explained. “But it will completely turn your life around. I can now take care of my grandchildren and watch them grow up. It truly is a miracle.”

“We want to say thank you to the families who donated their loved ones’ corneas. Because of their generosity, our family and Peyton are very fortunate.”

Jimmy and Tracey Peyton’s Parents

Recipient Profile: Specialist Procido

A Soldier Expresses Gratitude

After serving in Vietnam for five months and 19 days, Specialist Paul Procida returned to the United States completely blind in both eyes. He was awarded two Purple Heart Medals—a U.S. Military decoration awarded in the name of the President to those wounded or killed while serving in the military—but the battle was far from over. Initially, after a year of perseverance and several eye surgeries, some of Specialist Procida’s vision slowly returned. “It wasn’t the best, but it was good enough that I could go on with my life,” he explains. Forty-seven years later, however, Specialist Procida’s vision began to worsen. It was decided that the best course of action was to move forward with corneal transplant surgery in both eyes. “I am grateful for my donor family and I am so sorry for their loss,” says Specialist Procida.

Donated Tissue Helps a Teacher See Again

Graduating a semester early from Tulane University, 22-year-old Alexandra excitedly accepted a second-grade teaching position in New York City. On the third day of her new job, however, Alex woke up with red, irritated eyes. It was the beginning of a terrifying month. After visiting a specialist, Alex learned that both of her corneas were deeply scratched and had developed bacterial infections that required urgent medical attention. With her eyesight deteriorating, Alex visited Wills Eye Hospital for a second opinion. She learned her best option was a corneal transplant and decided to move forward with it. The decision paid off: Her surgeon was able to clear the infection, saving her eyesight. “I look at the world with a new sense of gratitude,” Alex says. “I am just so grateful for the person who gave me my sight back and changed my life for the better.”

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