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.