Supporting Wills Eye’s Mission to Preserve and Protect Vision

Anna Rhodes


Anna Rhodes is a lifelong artist and passionate psychotherapist who comes from generations of family in healthcare. Her grandfather was a physician in Europe. Her mother, also in healthcare, was part of the team that created Fight for Sight, an organization dedicated to stopping sight loss through pioneering research.  Her cousin was an ophthalmologist. Anna herself volunteered as a child for at the Overbrook School for the Blind. This was all years before Anna would eventually be diagnosed with Fuchs’ and Epithelial Corneal Dystrophy, causing her to become blind in one eye and leading to three cornea transplants over the course over two decades.

“I was told when diagnosed in my late 20’s that I would become more aware of my symptoms and my vision would slowly become impaired.”

Born in Philadelphia, she was raised with a deep appreciation for the arts and has studied, taught, and created art in extraordinary settings throughout the world. Her background is a fascinating collage of classical training, and a creative passion grown from spending the 60s in New York, the 70s and 80s in San Francisco and a lifetime traveling internationally. She created and teaches an artist retreat in extraordinary settings and to this day teaches this retreat, which has been recommended by O, the Oprah Magazine, in Carmel, California at the acclaimed Cypress Inn.

A parallel passion for Anna was the desire to become professional in healthcare, inspired by her family. In addition to receiving her degree from Santa Clara University’s graduate program in psychology, she was on staff with Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, named one of the 50 pioneers of healthcare in the world, and a therapist and educator for the University of Washington School of Medicine until she began her private practice in Seattle, Washington, the city she now calls home.

A short time after her diagnosis, her life started to change.

“I remember the day. I was driving on a beautiful summer day and all of a sudden it seemed like there was something really off with my vision.”

Being from Philadelphia, Anna was familiar with Wills Eye.

“Wills Eye Hospital was known to me as being one of the finest hospitals in the world.”

She knew that despite living all the way across the country, she wanted to have a consultation at Wills Eye and that’s how she found her way to Dr. Christopher Rapuano, Chief of the Wills Eye Cornea Service. During their initial consultation, he advised her that she would need to have a cornea transplant at some time, but not right away.

“Knowing I had (Dr. Rapuano) in my life even just for a consultation gave me peace of mind. I felt like somebody was there to be supportive of me while I was going through a very difficult diagnosis.”

Anna received a cornea transplant on the West Coast in 1999. It slowly began to fail. In 2008, she had another with a different ophthalmologist and had problems from the very beginning.

“I was struggling with sight in both my eyes, but it was worse in my right. I felt extremely impaired. I was struggling.”

At this point, Anna was essentially blind in her right eye.

“I just accepted that this was the way life was going to be.”

In the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Anna developed a serious infection in her transplanted eye and was told if she didn’t have surgery immediately, she could lose the eye entirely.

She turned again to Dr. Rapuano.

“One of the most amazing things about (Dr. Rapuano) is how he just shows up. I’m not a regular patient and he still contacted me back right away and said if I’d be willing to come to Philadelphia, he’d be willing to do my transplant.”

Anna packed her bags and secured a short-term rental in Philadelphia so Dr. Rapuano and his team could monitor her recovery in Philadelphia. This allowed her to be near her son and his family, who live in the area. Then, all she had to do was wait for a donor. The day before her scheduled appointment, the call came that a donor was available.

“This was my third transplant, and I knew at my age the chances of success were really slim. I knew I might not know the result of the procedure for some months.”

The transplant was a complete success. Soon after the procedure, Anna’s vision was 20/40 and today she sees 20/25.

“I now see the glimmer in people’s eyes, the details of every face, the layers of color in every painting, and the subtle markings in each piece of fruit or vegetable while I’m preparing recipes. It’s a miracle. I feel like Dr. Rapuano, the gift from my donor, and the team at Wills Eye Hospital have given me a new life.”

When asked why she chooses to donate to Wills Eye, Anna shared, “If I can contribute to research, patient care, and giving each physician the opportunity to create miracles, I am grateful.”

Anna believes a person’s health and wellbeing is one of the most essential things in the world. She has a deep respect for the cutting-edge research taking place at Wills Eye and values the dedication she has experienced from doctors and staff at all levels.

“It makes a difference every single day to every person whether they can see or not, how safe they feel, how the world opens up to them.”

To Anna, it’s important to be able to contribute to anyone in need of sight saving surgery from any place in the world. She knows her donation supports Wills Eye’s mission to preserve and protect vision.

“I tell everyone who is challenged with their eyesight to get on a plane and go to Wills Eye Hospital for advice.”


Contact Wills Eye Foundation

Email: giving@willseye.org
Phone: 215-440-3154