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.
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!