Local non profit delivers gift of sight from Philadelphia to Jamaica

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Minutes before Simeon Edwards went into surgery in Jamaica for a sight-saving cornea transplant, he said he was "feeling good".

Simeon declared, "That's like a dream come true for me."

Simeon, from Kingston, Jamaica, damaged his eye in a construction accident a decade ago. He wasn't able to get the transplant he needed until now, with the help of Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley in Northern Liberties, a nonprofit that recovers, processes, and distributes cornea tissue for sight-saving corneal transplants.

"This man had been waiting in darkness and in pain for over ten years," explained Alex Cummings of LEBDV.

Cummings, a corneal transplant recipient herself, first learned about Simeon in October when he reached out on social media. In his message, he explained doctors in Jamaica couldn't provide the eye tissues he needed and that he lacked the proper insurance.

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, Cummings traveled to Jamaica with the cornea donation. A surgeon flew in from the Dominican Republic.

"We believe that someone's ability to pay should never be a barrier to their ability to see," said Cummings.

In the United States, there is no longer a waiting list for corneal tissue, but barriers arise with insurance

LEBDV coordinates roughly 1,000 transplants a year and mainly serves Delaware, Southeastern Pennsylvania, and southern New Jersey.

This eye bank has a Gratis tissue program, which provides tissue and financial help for transplants. After local needs are met, they can prove help internationally for people like Simeon.

"He still has a long road ahead, but the improvement already is night and day," Cummings told 6abc.

Since 2012, Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley has provided over 225 local recipients with gratis tissue requests and 252 overseas patients in need.

Cummings explained, unlike some other organ and tissue donations, the eye donor has to be deceased in order to donate his or her corneas.

All along the walls of the eye bank, there are pictures of transplant recipients and letters of gratitude to donors families, whose lost loved ones are now helping others see.

"We think that donors and their families are like real-life heroes, and they really define what it means to be truly altruistic. There is no greater gift that you can give."

To register to become a donor, visit https://www.registerme.org/

To learn more about Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley, visit https://lebdv.org/
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