This week’s Favorite Friend Friday is most definitely a face that you have seen before. A corneal transplant recipient, Delaware native, and national ambassador for Eye Donation Month, it only seemed appropriate to feature Cameron Whittle once again as today marks the official start of National Eye Donation Month.

 National Eye Donation Month, proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, is used by the Eye Bank Association of America as an opportunity to educate the public about the importance of registering to be a donor, about cornea donation and transplantation, and to acknowledge the important work of eye banks. This year’s campaign is centered around the theme, “The Power of You,” which acknowledges the entire community of people who are involved in the journey of sight restoration. The campaign demonstrates the “power” that individuals have in building hope, restoring sight and changing lives, including healthcare professionals and partners, researchers, eye bank staff, corneal surgeons, recipients and donor families, and YOU.

Throughout the month of November, we will be featuring stories of recipients, donor families, eye bank staff, surgeons, and other individuals who play a crucial role in the eye donation process. Make sure you are following us on Facebook (Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley) and Instagram (@lionseyebankdelawarevalley) to keep up with all National Eye Donation Month has to offer! Follow along with the official hashtags of Eye Donation Month as well, #eyedonationmonth, #eyedonationmonth2019.

Cameron Whittle began experiencing visual difficulties including, photosensitivity, eye irritation, drainage and swelling at the early age of three. At age 13, Cameron was diagnosed with keratoconus. His initial treatment for this was wearing eyeglasses to correct his sight followed by special contacts. Keratoconus is a disease that affects the cornea, which is the clear, dome-shaped tissue covering the front of the eye. It results when the cornea’s dome bulges outward into the shape of a cone.  Over the course of time, the disease led to vision loss and corneal tissue scarring. In June of 2014, Cameron had his corneal transplant surgery and regained vision in his left eye.

He is now in his junior year at Goldey-Beacom College in Wilmington, DE. Cameron believes in paying it forward and honors his cornea donor by volunteering at Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley and being an advocate for cornea donation. During the 2016 Transplant Games of America held in Cleveland, OH, Cameron took first place in the 1,500 meter race! He will most likely be back for more at the 2020 Transplant Games this summer in the Meadowlands, NJ.

Cameron and his family express eternal gratitude to the donor who made the selfless decision to donate their cornea. “Being a cornea and organ donor is so important. My donor now lives on through me,” Cameron says. He will be honoring his donor and their family, along with many others at the Delaware Life & Legacy Celebration on Sunday, November 10. In 2016 Cameron wrote to his donor family saying:

Dear Donor Family,

 

The past two years have been such a wonderful and grateful experience. Your loved one gave me sight again and that’s one of the greatest things on earth. I have my license and can drive now. It is my senior year at Newark Charter High School. Without the help of your loved one, I wouldn’t be able to have a license, car, complete high school and now be going to college.

 

Sincerely, Cameron

 

Thank you Cameron for all that you do to support LEBDV and our mission to restore sight in the Delaware Valley; we don’t know what we’d do without you!

We could not think of a better way to kickoff November’s National Eye Donation Month, than by highlighting Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley’s (LEBDV) Medical Director, Sadeer Hannush, M.D. for this week’s Favorite Friend Friday.
 
Dr. Hannush is Attending Surgeon on the Cornea Service at Wills Eye Hospital and Professor of Ophthalmology at Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. He earned his Doctor of Medicine Degree from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, and completed his Ophthalmology Residency at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He then went on to fellowship training in Corneal and Refractive Surgery at Emory University, in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Hannush is a member of the Medical Advisory Board of the Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA). He first joined LEBDV in 1988 as a corneal surgeon following completion of his Emory fellowship.
 
As Medical Director, Dr. Hannush performs a fundamental role in approving and implementing medical policies and procedures, training our certified eye bank technicians, and overseeing quality metrics of prepared tissue. Above and beyond his Medical Director duties, he was instrumental in the implementation of LEBDV’s Gratis Tissue Program which has now benefited hundreds of your community members to receive the gift of sight. Once the local need is served, his efforts have continued to support local surgeons with mission trips by providing the gift of sight to underprivileged areas in desperate need. Not only is Dr. Hannush an admired and appreciated leader for our organization, but he is also a loved and adored ophthalmologist to his patients.
 
Dr. Hannush most recently took a trip to Paris, France in September where he delivered the European Cornea Society Medal Lecture at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles. The lecture drew on Dr. Hannush’s three-decade post-training experience in the areas of cornea and external disease, maintaining a private practice while being actively involved in academic medicine as Attending Surgeon at Wills Eye Hospital and Professor of Ophthalmology at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. In this lecture, Dr. Hannush emphasized the importance of participating in clinical research. “In the course of a 4-decade career an ophthalmologist may touch the lives of about 40,000 patients. If, however, we change the way medicine is practiced, we can touch the lives of millions”, he observed.
 
Besides his trip to Paris, Dr. Hannush has lectured across the globe about full and partial thickness corneal transplantation, artificial cornea surgery, complex cataract procedures, and laser vision correction. He has traveled to: Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, the UK, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, Spain, Italy, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, South Korea and Australia, just to name a few!  He has also performed and taught corneal transplantation in Italy, Spain, Egypt, and Kenya, where he started a transplant program at Tenwek Mission Hospital. This was made possible by generous donations of corneal tissue on many occasions by LEBDV, which serves patients in need of the gift of sight around the world. This Thanksgiving Dr. Hannush returns to Tenwek Hospital in Kenya to continue his mission work with the support of LEBDV.
 
Most recently, the American Academy of Ophthalmology awarded Dr. Hannush the prestigious Life Achievement Award in education. The Achievement Award program recognizes individuals for their contributions to the Academy, its scientific and educational programs and to ophthalmology, and Dr. Hannush could not be any more deserving!


Thank you so much for all you do for the Eye Bank and cornea recipients Dr. Hannush. We don’t know what we’d do without you!

This week’s Favorite Friend Friday hails from Richmond, VA. We were lucky to meet Mrs. Mary Jackson when she came across a previous Favorite Friend Friday post a month back. We are so happy our paths crossed, because the story she has to share is truly an inspiring one. Donate Life Virginia interviewed her for an in depth article 2 years ago, and that is the story we will be sharing here. Thank you Mrs. Jackson for being such an inspiration, and thank you Donate Life Virginia for allowing us to share her story!

Mary Jackson didn’t just get new eyes – she got a whole new way of looking at life after a double cornea transplant 25 years ago cured her not only of blindness, but of suicidal depression.
Now in early 80s, she’s more active than she’s ever been and grateful for her second shot at life.

Going dark:
Mary was not yet 40 when she started having eye trouble in the 1970s. While working as a librarian at Thomas Jefferson High School in Richmond, she started experiencing double vision and problems reading as print looked blurry.
“I didn’t know the severity of what was happening,” she said. “They told me it was allergic conjunctivitis, which is just pink eye, plus atopic dermatitis. I didn’t know how serious it was.” The two conditions combined to leave Mary with untreatable failing vision and a huge problem for her career and lifestyle. “There I was as a librarian with a problem of this magnitude. I was also in the music ministry at my church so I had to be able to read the music and I was getting my master’s degree. And all of that while I’m going blind,” she said.

Even with rapidly failing vision, Mary earned a master’s degree from the University of Richmond in 15 months. But that was the high point. Four years later, in 1980, her vision had become too poor to continue working and she was forced to retire from her 22-year career as a librarian. “I was only 42 and I couldn’t work,” she said. “When school would start I’d really get depressed because I couldn’t go to work. I became suicidal and I’d have these pity parties every single day. No one was invited but my depression and my poor vision.”
Mary could still see a little – she could drive during the day as long as she knew the route well – but her vision continued to decline. She developed cataracts and her corneas became scarred. By the early 1990s, she could only drive to church and to Regency Mall – the only two places both close and familiar enough to navigate. “I became suicidal and I’d have these pity parties every single day. No one was invited but my depression and my poor vision.”

Risking it:
At church, Mary continued her work in the music ministry, memorizing the notes when she could no longer read them on the page. The pieces she couldn’t memorize, she rewrote “really really big” so she could see them.
But it was the depression, not her eyesight, that was the bigger problem. So when her doctor told her she could gamble on a cornea transplant, she decided to take a chance. “It was risky,” she said. “I could still see a little and the operation could have left me completely blind but I was going blind anyway. I figured blindness was going to be blindness so why not take a chance.”
The surgery was scheduled for Jan. 15, 1993 so Mary was completely unprepared when she arrived home in the evening to find a voice mail from the doctor saying a cornea was ready for her and the surgery had to be done the very next day. The chances of success were only 30 percent and Mary wasn’t ready but she went.

Signing up:
As she prepared for the surgery, she realized for the first time that she was being given someone else’s cornea – a gift of sight from a stranger who had signed an organ donation card. “I hadn’t been for or against being an organ donor. I didn’t know anything about it,” she said. But before she went in for surgery, she signed her own organ donor card. “When the doctor took the bandages from my eyes the next morning, it was like a new world.”

A new world:
There was only a 30 percent chance the transplant would work — but it worked. “When the doctor took the bandages from my eyes the next morning, it was like a new world,” she said. “The first thing I could see was the elation on his face because of the job he had done.”
Less than a year later, she had the same surgery again, this time on her right eye. Now entering the 25th year since her first new eye, Mary said she’s discovered a bigger world than the one she left. “I was taken out of the classroom but I was placed in a much wider arena than the classroom could ever hold,” she said.
She hit the road, traveling around the country and even to Australia with the American Baptist Women’s Ministries. She also began giving back to the donation community, talking to people who were candidates for cornea transplants and helping them through their fear.
“It became a passion of mine to talk to people who were candidates,” she said. “I talk to them on the phone or over email but when I was on the way to Australia I had to stop in Los Angeles and I got to have dinner with a woman I’d been communicating with over the phone.”

A medical miracle:
“I call transplantation a ‘medical miracle,’” Mary said. “I don’t have 20/20 vision but I don’t need to have 20/20 vision – I can read and I don’t take reading for granted. It’s a privilege.”
For a career librarian, being able to read again is everything. But it’s not all she’s doing, even as her 80th birthday approaches. “I’m on the board of the Old Dominion Eye Foundation and I’m the chair of Christian education at church and I teach Sunday school and I’m one of the editors of the church newsletter and I’m on several committees at church,” she said. She also found time to pose for calendars – one for Donate Life Virginia and one for the National Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program. “I always say I’m a pin-up girl,” she said, laughing. She also says she’s been blessed with a second chance. “Suicide didn’t work because there was an opportunity waiting for me,” she said. “It always makes me think of the line in the hymn – twas blind but now I see.” 

 

 

Today’s Favorite Friend Friday hails all the way from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Originally from New Orleans, LA, and awarded Florida Lions Eye Bank’s Cornea Recipient of the Year, I am sure you are going to enjoy reading Nolan Bourgeois’ story just as much as I enjoyed talking with him.

Florida Lions Eye Bank wrote an excellent feature story on Nolan’s journey, from realizing there was something very wrong with his eye in 2014, through his transplant and onward. I am going to focus on what Mr. Bourgeois has done since his transplant, and how he took a situation that would have left others feeling defeated, and turned it into a way to positively impact people around the globe.

Nolan is the founder of the Corneal Transplant Support Group, the first of its kind on Facebook. This group first came about out of necessity. During the time of Nolan’s eye infections, and while waiting for a transplant, he scoured the internet hoping to learn as much about what was happening to him as possible. However, “the human side of things was missing on the internet,” Nolan explains. He was able to find a lot of information about his infection, and transplants—“all the medical information was out there, but the personal side was missing.”  During this time Nolan joined a few medical groups on Facebook, but notes how very few people were talking about transplants. “I needed to find people who could relate to what I was going through. Family and friends tried to help, but they couldn’t totally understand,” Nolan recalls.

Realizing that the only way to get the support he needed would be to create it on his own, Nolan did just that. Today the Corneal Transplant Support Group has 2,200 members from over 110 countries—the top five being the US, UK, Australia, South Africa, Canada, and India. “Prior to this group, I was barely on Facebook at all,” Nolan recounts, “and now it is one of my biggest passions.” The creation of this group not only provided Nolan with the human connection and support he needed, but began serving as a safe space and outlet for countless others going through the transplant process. “In this group we understand each other,” Nolan explains. “We’ve all been through this crazy journey, we share a common bond. It’s a safe place for people to seek advice, help, and comfort.”

“I believe this group understands me even more than my surgeon; she is amazing but has not experienced our journey,” one Corneal Transplant Support Group member commented. “I am soooo grateful for Nolan’s group,” gushed another. “As with anything else, no one truly understands unless they are going through it themselves!” and “This group has been a lifesaver for me!” are just a few of the countless praises being sung by CTSG members.

In addition to serving as a safe space, Nolan’s Support Group connects people from all walks of life. “While we are very fortunate in the United States to never have to wait for a cornea for transplantation, others are not so lucky. People in Africa for instance, do not have the luxury of receiving one on demand, there is a waiting list.” Nolan’s hope is to create a foundation through his new platform to cover the shipping costs of corneas to other countries, and to help finance surgeries here in the US as well for people who could not afford it otherwise.

When asked what the support group means to them and how it has positively impacted their lives one member said: “I wish I knew about this group years back when I felt all alone. Seeing others who have gone through and are going through what I experienced has given me a sense of belonging which is extremely important and makes me hopeful.” “I love meeting people (now friends) from all over the world,” said another. “I know at any time of the day or night I can find support and understanding.” The impact Mr. Bourgeois has had on the cornea transplant community is large and still growing. On average, 300 members a month are joining the Corneal Transplant Support Group, which is really remarkable. Thank you for creating such a safe and supportive space!

 

 

 

For this week’s Favorite Friend Friday, I had the honor of sitting down to chat with the Chair of the Board of Trustees, LEBDV’s very own PCT Ann E. Reiver. Inspired by Helen Keller’s appeal to help end preventable blindness, and witnessing firsthand through her husband, PID Ted Reiver, all of the amazing work the Lions were doing, Ann felt compelled to join herself in 1999. After joining 20 years ago Ann never looked back. “As a Lion over the years I was very active in my club,” Ann explains. “I’ve been President a few times, and am currently the secretary. As a Past District Governor, Ted and I took part in many different district events. We became involved in a lot of activities and organizations outside of our own club.”

“The more we’ve done, the more we want to do,” Ann says about her active role in Lions Club. “When the Delaware Trustees asked if I’d like to be a Board Member, it was an easy yes. I truly love the Eye Bank, and the idea of having a greater role in assisting and working with them was exciting to me.” Ann has since devoted her time and talents to serve as a member of various committees including human resources, budget and finance, audit review and fundraising. She is constantly reminded of the profound impact eye donation has for both cornea transplant recipients and donor families.

Ann modestly states how the Board rotates through Chairs, and because of this model it was her turn to be Chair of the Board last year.  She explains how due to her more reserved personality, “If it wasn’t for this model of picking the Chair, I am not sure if I would have stepped forward on my own. That being said, I am so happy it worked out like this because I love being on the Board and being the Chair. Plus, the staff at the Eye Bank is so incredible, they do so much, that they make my job easy!”

Besides being the second woman ever to be Chair of the Board, and one of only 3 female Board members, Ann is also the first Chair of the Board to serve a 2 year term! In recent years Board Members have become even more involved with LEBDV’s events, and Ann is so thankful for this. “The changes in the Eye Bank since I have been on the Board are truly remarkable. The Gratis Tissue Fund, the amount of involvement and contact we now have with recipients and donor families. It’s awe-inspiring. The fact that I am currently on the phone with a recipient who now works at LEBDV, getting to watch Mila run around and Kacey grow up—it is so impactful.”

Ann loves the emphasis being placed on showcasing real people’s stories. “Showing the community how their efforts and donations are directly changing people’s lives—it’s moving and impactful.” One of Ann’s favorite LEBDV events is the Annual Cornea Recipient Luncheon for this very reason. “It is a chance for members of the community, from recipients and staff to donor families and Lions to come together to celebrate this wonderful gift and incredible sacrifice. It is so impactful for a recipient to speak firsthand about how a transplant has changed their life.”

When Anne is not busy running the Board and helping her community, you can find her probably still spending time with Lions! “A lot of our friends are Lions, which honestly is one of the best parts about being in this organization,” Ann says. “The amount of friends and connections we’ve made as Lions is incredible.”  Ann and Ted also have lots of grandkids to keep them on their toes. Their family accompanied them to the Phillies baseball game and tailgate last month, and they always attend the Annual Cornea Recipient Luncheon.

We feel so lucky to have such an incredible woman as the Chair of the Board. Thank you for your service and commitment Ann. We cannot wait to see what this term brings for you!

This week we are featuring our youngest friend yet: (almost) 16 month old Mila Stier! Mila was our Cover Girl for our previous forSight newsletter, and her and her parents Megan and Luke have been involved with us ever since! 

Mila has a very rare condition called Peter’s Anomaly—so rare that only 3-4 out of every 100,000 babies are born with it. Because this condition is so rare, there are so many unknowns surrounding it. Mila’s mom Megan explains that when her daughter was born at Pennsylvania Hospital, the onsite ophthalmologist who came in to check her eyes gave them very little hope. “She told us basically that there was no hope of ever doing a transplant on her left eye because it was too small and had a cataract. And if we did a transplant on her right eye, the most she’d ever be able to see is shadows and light.” You can imagine the panic and fear first-time parents would feel hearing that from a doctor. “She basically told us there’s no hope, don’t even bother.”

After countless hours of research and googling, Megan and Luke came across an Eye Bank in Kansas who had featured a little girl with Peters Anomaly on their website. Megan reached out to the Eye Bank asking to be put in contact with this mom. Megan recalls, “Her story sounded so much like my daughter’s, but her outcome sounded so much better!” Through this contact the Stiers eventually found Wills Eye, where their daughter’s vision was saved. “That’s why I really want to share our story,” Megan says, “because I feel like it could help people that might not know that Wills Eye is the best place to go around here for kids with PA.”

While Megan and Luke were presented with the option to have Mila’s right eye transplanted as well, they opted not to, as their doctor was able to remove some scar tissue to improve the vision. “For now we have decided to wait with her right eye. When she’s old enough, she’ll be able to decide if she wants a transplant,” Megan says. This past Monday Mila had to go back to Wills for another procedure—one that she has had done three times already, to remove a mass of lens cells that keeps coming back under her transplant. “Her doctors have never seen anything like this before,” Megan explains, “they still can’t be sure if all the cells were removed, but it looks hopeful.”

Today, 8 surgeries later, Mila is walking, running, and playing like any other 16 month old! October 17, less than two weeks from now, is actually the 1 year anniversary of her transplant! “Her vision surprises us every single day,” Megan remarks. “When she was born, we weren’t sure if she would even be able to walk or run around. It is so obvious now that she has a good amount of useable vision. She is able to see really tiny pieces of cookie crumbs off of the floor. Just the other day I had a tiny string on my pant leg, and Mila found it and pulled it. It was pretty incredible that she could see something so small!”

Through Lions Eye Bank, Wills Eye, and the internet, Megan and Luke have developed a support group of sorts of other parents of children with Peters Anomaly. “It’s really nice to have this support group of moms who can relate to what you’re going through.”

We are so grateful that Mila and her parents were brought into our life last year. They are an amazing addition to our community, and we love getting to watch Mila continue to grow and explore the world with her newfound vision.

This week’s Favorite Friend Friday is a slightly unconventional one, as I am not interviewing someone to be featured. The idea behind this new segment is to introduce the community to recipients, donor families, Lions, Board Members, staff, and constituents who make up and support the LEBDV family. Today I am going to introduce you to myself: my name is Alex Cummings, and I am the new Community Relations Coordinator here at Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley.

As the Community Relations Coordinator, I manage communication with recipients and donors, I assist with event planning, manage the social media platforms, run our eyeglass assist program, and a little bit of a lot of other things. One of my favorite parts of the job however, is this Favorite Friends Friday segment that I began. I know for me personally, hearing the stories of recipients whose lives were changed, and the stories of all the amazing LEBDV community members, is incredibly impactful. I love it because it allows me to meet and talk with inspiring human beings, and I am lucky enough to get to share their stories with all of you!

Before I go into any more detail of my own story, I should start off by explaining why exactly I took a job at Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley and why it is so important to me. Although I have only been working at LEBDV around 3 months now, my ties to them began over 4 years ago when I was 22 years old. I had just graduated from Tulane University in the spring of 2015, and was beginning my first full time job as an elementary school teacher in NYC.

I remember the exact moment I realized something was wrong as if it was yesterday. One evening I found small white dots on both of my eyes, and after a trip to urgent care when it was becoming difficult to see properly out of them, I found out that those white dots were cuts that had ulcerated, which in turn lead to an infection. The month of August 2015 was a blur of doctor visit, around the clock eye drops, and very little progress being made. When I think back to this time, the emotions of frustration and fear come rushing back. Frustration with the doctors who couldn’t help me, frustration with my body for letting me down, and fear that this was my new normal and I would never regain complete sight or independence.

In September, after no progress had been made with any of my doctors in NYC, I headed to Wills Eye, cautiously optimistic. Within 24 hours they were able to diagnose me. It turns out that while my left eye did in fact have a bacterial infection like every doctor had been telling me, my right eye had a rare fungal infection called aspergillus. Because the infection had been in my eye almost two months now however, it was past the point of topical treatment, and it became apparent that I would need a corneal transplant. At this point in my life I had never even heard of a corneal transplant before, so while I was excited that a plan of action was in place, I was also very nervous for the unknown.

At the end of September 2015 I received my corneal transplant. After my surgery I also received a folder from LEBDV filled with information about the organization, as well as the opportunity to send a thank you letter to my donors’ family. Little did I know that four years later, I would be the one reaching out to recipients.

It has now been exactly four years since my transplant. In these past four years I have taught at two different NYC schools, adopted a dog, got engaged, moved to Philadelphia, and accepted a job at Lions Eye Bank. I am forever grateful to my donor and their family who gave me the gift of sight, and to all of the people in Lions Eye Bank who change peoples’ lives every single day.

This week’s Favorite Friend is 1st VDG Art Pecht, a member of The Honey Brook Lions Club for the past 18 years, and a huge supporter of Lions Eye Bank. If you have ever attended any LEBDV events, then you have definitely seen or met Art, as he is always the first one there to set up, help out, or work the grill. Art was drawn to the Lions Club initially because he was motivated to give his time and energy to others. Almost two decades later, and he is still doing just that!

Prior to his Lion days, Art and his wife owned and worked at Conrad’s Deli in York, PA; and up until very recently he was the Receiving Manager at Target in Exton, PA. Just because Art is retired however, in no way means he is slowing down. In fact, it is quite the opposite. “I feel the way the world is, in today’s situation, we should try to leave it in a better place than when we found it,” Art says. “That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m retired, so I’m able to give my time and energy to giving back.” Not only does Art help with so many LEBDV events, through his Lions Club he is also involved with the local Fire and Police Departments, Food Pantries, and so much more.

“To me, the most motivating part of the work we do is when we see someone who has actually benefited from something we helped them with.” Continuing on the topic of his motivation to do the work he does, Art goes back to the early days of Lions Clubs. “Helen Keller challenged us to be knights of the blind. It is so important. Helping people see through corneal transplants, it is an extremely important aspect of what we do.” A specific story that comes to mind for Art is when he and his Lions Club helped a woman pay for her cataract surgery. “She was having a special type of cataract surgery where she needed an additional implant, and it was very expensive. She didn’t have the means to pay for it so our club raised the money for her. She was so elated, and has now come out to help with White Cane, our fundraiser that happens twice a year!”

In addition to the big impact he makes on people’s lives, Art loves the Lion community. “No matter where you go when you’re a Lion, there is an amazing camaraderie and fellowship.” Some of his favorite annual LEBDV events are the Gift of Sight Charity Golf Classic, and Gift of Life’s Donor Dash that we always support.

When Art is not helping LEBDV, the Honey Brook Fire Police Department, or local Food Pantries, he enjoys working woodworking and spending time with his wife, 5 children, and 2 grandchildren.

This is just a small sampling of all the amazing things Art Pecht has done during his time as a Lion. Thank you so much for all of your help and hard work Art; we cannot wait to see what else you do!

Friday, November 15, 2019

This week’s Favorite Friend Friday is most definitely a face that you have seen before. A corneal transplant recipient, Delaware native, and national ambassador for Eye Donation Month, it only seemed appropriate to feature Cameron Whittle once again as today marks the official start of National Eye Donation Month.

 National Eye Donation Month, proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, is used by the Eye Bank Association of America as an opportunity to educate the public about the importance of registering to be a donor, about cornea donation and transplantation, and to acknowledge the important work of eye banks. This year’s campaign is centered around the theme, “The Power of You,” which acknowledges the entire community of people who are involved in the journey of sight restoration. The campaign demonstrates the “power” that individuals have in building hope, restoring sight and changing lives, including healthcare professionals and partners, researchers, eye bank staff, corneal surgeons, recipients and donor families, and YOU.

Throughout the month of November, we will be featuring stories of recipients, donor families, eye bank staff, surgeons, and other individuals who play a crucial role in the eye donation process. Make sure you are following us on Facebook (Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley) and Instagram (@lionseyebankdelawarevalley) to keep up with all National Eye Donation Month has to offer! Follow along with the official hashtags of Eye Donation Month as well, #eyedonationmonth, #eyedonationmonth2019.

Cameron Whittle began experiencing visual difficulties including, photosensitivity, eye irritation, drainage and swelling at the early age of three. At age 13, Cameron was diagnosed with keratoconus. His initial treatment for this was wearing eyeglasses to correct his sight followed by special contacts. Keratoconus is a disease that affects the cornea, which is the clear, dome-shaped tissue covering the front of the eye. It results when the cornea’s dome bulges outward into the shape of a cone.  Over the course of time, the disease led to vision loss and corneal tissue scarring. In June of 2014, Cameron had his corneal transplant surgery and regained vision in his left eye.

He is now in his junior year at Goldey-Beacom College in Wilmington, DE. Cameron believes in paying it forward and honors his cornea donor by volunteering at Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley and being an advocate for cornea donation. During the 2016 Transplant Games of America held in Cleveland, OH, Cameron took first place in the 1,500 meter race! He will most likely be back for more at the 2020 Transplant Games this summer in the Meadowlands, NJ.

Cameron and his family express eternal gratitude to the donor who made the selfless decision to donate their cornea. “Being a cornea and organ donor is so important. My donor now lives on through me,” Cameron says. He will be honoring his donor and their family, along with many others at the Delaware Life & Legacy Celebration on Sunday, November 10. In 2016 Cameron wrote to his donor family saying:

Dear Donor Family,

 

The past two years have been such a wonderful and grateful experience. Your loved one gave me sight again and that’s one of the greatest things on earth. I have my license and can drive now. It is my senior year at Newark Charter High School. Without the help of your loved one, I wouldn’t be able to have a license, car, complete high school and now be going to college.

 

Sincerely, Cameron

 

Thank you Cameron for all that you do to support LEBDV and our mission to restore sight in the Delaware Valley; we don’t know what we’d do without you!

Friday, November 01, 2019

We could not think of a better way to kickoff November’s National Eye Donation Month, than by highlighting Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley’s (LEBDV) Medical Director, Sadeer Hannush, M.D. for this week’s Favorite Friend Friday.
 
Dr. Hannush is Attending Surgeon on the Cornea Service at Wills Eye Hospital and Professor of Ophthalmology at Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. He earned his Doctor of Medicine Degree from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, and completed his Ophthalmology Residency at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He then went on to fellowship training in Corneal and Refractive Surgery at Emory University, in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Hannush is a member of the Medical Advisory Board of the Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA). He first joined LEBDV in 1988 as a corneal surgeon following completion of his Emory fellowship.
 
As Medical Director, Dr. Hannush performs a fundamental role in approving and implementing medical policies and procedures, training our certified eye bank technicians, and overseeing quality metrics of prepared tissue. Above and beyond his Medical Director duties, he was instrumental in the implementation of LEBDV’s Gratis Tissue Program which has now benefited hundreds of your community members to receive the gift of sight. Once the local need is served, his efforts have continued to support local surgeons with mission trips by providing the gift of sight to underprivileged areas in desperate need. Not only is Dr. Hannush an admired and appreciated leader for our organization, but he is also a loved and adored ophthalmologist to his patients.
 
Dr. Hannush most recently took a trip to Paris, France in September where he delivered the European Cornea Society Medal Lecture at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles. The lecture drew on Dr. Hannush’s three-decade post-training experience in the areas of cornea and external disease, maintaining a private practice while being actively involved in academic medicine as Attending Surgeon at Wills Eye Hospital and Professor of Ophthalmology at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. In this lecture, Dr. Hannush emphasized the importance of participating in clinical research. “In the course of a 4-decade career an ophthalmologist may touch the lives of about 40,000 patients. If, however, we change the way medicine is practiced, we can touch the lives of millions”, he observed.
 
Besides his trip to Paris, Dr. Hannush has lectured across the globe about full and partial thickness corneal transplantation, artificial cornea surgery, complex cataract procedures, and laser vision correction. He has traveled to: Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, the UK, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, Spain, Italy, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, South Korea and Australia, just to name a few!  He has also performed and taught corneal transplantation in Italy, Spain, Egypt, and Kenya, where he started a transplant program at Tenwek Mission Hospital. This was made possible by generous donations of corneal tissue on many occasions by LEBDV, which serves patients in need of the gift of sight around the world. This Thanksgiving Dr. Hannush returns to Tenwek Hospital in Kenya to continue his mission work with the support of LEBDV.
 
Most recently, the American Academy of Ophthalmology awarded Dr. Hannush the prestigious Life Achievement Award in education. The Achievement Award program recognizes individuals for their contributions to the Academy, its scientific and educational programs and to ophthalmology, and Dr. Hannush could not be any more deserving!


Thank you so much for all you do for the Eye Bank and cornea recipients Dr. Hannush. We don’t know what we’d do without you!

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