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Five-year-old Peyton Barkalow will soon step onto his school bus and walk through the doors of William H. Ross School in Margate, New Jersey for his first day of kindergarten on Tuesday, September 6. What is an already emotional milestone for most parents, means all the more to Peyton and his family, for Peyton was diagnosed as legally blind at just one day old.

“For me, it is bittersweet,” says Tracey, Peyton’s mother on her son’s firsrt day of school.

Peyton was diagnosed with a rare eye condition called Bi-Lateral Peters’ anomaly. Peyton had his first of multiple surgeries at only one month of age, and his first cornea transplant in his right eye at just six months old. Babies born with this condition have central cornea cloudiness which typically requires surgical intervention as soon as medically possible, followed by visual rehabilitation.

At only five years old, Peyton has undergone four cornea transplant surgeries. There is no substitute for human tissue for these transplants; it is dependent upon the selfless gift of donation from one human to another. Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley (LEBDV) recovered, processed and ensured the safety of tissue used for each of Peyton’s surgeries. Tissues used for Peyton’s surgeries were provided by LEBDV’s Gratis Tissue Fund. The fund financially supports eligible individuals in need of cornea transplants who may be under-insured.

“This fund demonstrates the LEBDV’s commitment to deliver on our mission to enhance a person’s quality of life by restoring or improving vision to those in need,” says President and CEO Jim Quirk. “Without the generosity of community members who contribute to this fund, assistance for Peyton and others in need would not be possible.”

Peyton’s parents are grateful to those who have helped their son along the way, including teachers, caseworkers, donors and LEBDV.
“Our son was born blind. Because of very generous individuals who chose to say yes to donation, Peyton was given a second chance of sight, giving him the ability to meet life’s challenges and continue to learn and grow. Peyton is excited for his first day of school and is looking forward to making new friends,” says Jimmy, Peyton’s father.

“Jimmy, the kids and I, along with Peyton’s teachers from last year and Peyton’s caseworker from the Commission of the Blind, have all worked very hard in making sure Peyton is treated like the rest of the kids and pushing him to do his best. Now the time has come and I know I will cry, but they will be tears of joy,” says Tracey.

Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley is a nonprofit organization that obtains, medically evaluates and distributes human corneas for cornea transplant, research and education. Since 1957, Lions Eye Bank has provided corneal tissue to more than 40,000 individuals in need of a sight-restoring or sight-improving transplant.

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