Alumni Blog

Eaise ’18: The Journey of a Scholar-Athlete to Medical Trailblazer

Posted March 20th, 2024

Kevin Eaise ’18 learned he had a brain tumor as a child. Now he works with his surgeon.

Kevin Eaise went on to play college baseball before getting a job at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as a clinical research assistant

Kevin Eaise, who had surgery for a brain tumor in 2010, shown here playing baseball for the University of Pennsylvania in 2022. Eaise now works as clinical research assistant at the hospital where he had his surgery. (Michael Nance/Penn Athletics)

Written by for the Washington Post

Kevin Eaise was trying to catch a flyball at a Little League All-Star baseball game when he suddenly saw two balls in the air.

He was 10 years old at the time, and he decided his double vision was because of his contact lenses, he said.

“I thought something was wrong with the contacts, so I kept taking them out and washing them,” Eaise said, recalling that July 2010 day in Monroeville, N.J.

His parents took him to see an ophthalmologist, who noticed something unusual in his optic nerves. He went to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 30 minutes away, for an MRI scan of his head. The results were terrifying: He had a brain tumor and needed surgery right away.

“I remember being scared whether I’d be able to see normally again and play baseball,” said Eaise, now 24. “When you’re a kid, you just want to get back to playing.”

Kevin Eaise at a Little League baseball game in 2009, before he knew he had a brain tumor. (Family photo)

He got the operation quickly and it was a success. Eaise was back to running bases and throwing fastballs one week later.

His surgeon, Phillip B. Storm, chief of neurosurgery and co-director of the hospital’s Neuroscience Center, said the tumor on Eaise’s brain stem had blocked the flow of spinal fluid — a condition called obstructive hydrocephalus. It can be fatal if left untreated.

Storm used a tiny camera to see inside Eaise’s brain and reroute the fluid, but he didn’t remove the tumor, which was benign.

“In this age group, this particular kind of tumor will usually stop growing,” Storm said. “It was the pressure building up in Kevin’s head from the fluid that was making him sick.”

Kevin Eaise at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia following his brain surgery in 2010. (Family photo)

After the successful surgery, Eaise and his family stayed in touch with Storm. Eaise went on to play baseball for the University of Pennsylvania from 2019 to 2022, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was in in a post baccalaureate program in 2023. Storm attended a few of the games, and the two would meet for lunch now and then.

“As I grew older, I became more thankful for what Dr. Storm had done for me when I was 10,” said Eaise, who was named 2022 Ivy League Pitcher of the Year. “I realized how lucky I was that everything had worked out so well.”

Now, about 14 years after his surgery, Eaise is back at the same hospital, this time as a clinical research assistant working alongside the same doctor who made it possible for him to resume an active life.

Eaise, who was hired by the hospital last summer, talks to Storm’s pediatric patients and their parents to ask for permission for the patient’s tumor tissue to be studied at the hospital’s research institute. He explains the hospital’s mission to find better ways to treat brain tumors, and he also transfers samples from the operating room to the lab.

“Kevin has a calm demeanor and he’s great with the families because he can relate to what they’re going through,” said Storm, 55.

“They see this good-looking, strapping baseball player and they feel better, knowing he’s doing well in life,” he said. “Kevin brings a lot of hope and confidence to kids and parents going through a stressful time.”

Eaise recently shared his story with Philadelphia’s 6-ABC News.

Phillip B. Storm is chief of neurosurgery at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. (Phillip B. Storm)

Eaise said he has talked to several children who had the same kind of tumor that he did, tectal glioma.

“Being a part of their fight is important to me,” he said. “If they’re on the fence about participating in research, I’ll let them know that I was in the same situation needing brain surgery, and that helps open up a conversation.”

“I haven’t had anyone say ‘no’ yet,” he said.

Eaise graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in health care markets and finance. His minor was neuroscience. He wants to pursue a medical career and has applied to several medical schools. He is starting to hear back from them, he said.

“I don’t know exactly what I want to do yet, but I’m definitely interested in the brain,” Eaise said. “And I would really like to work in pediatrics.”

Kevin Eaise, left, with Phillip B. Storm at the Eaise Family Foundation in 2019. (Kevin Eaise)

Eaise’s parents, Kevin and Debbie Eaise, started a family foundation after his surgery to help fund research for innovative treatments of brain tumors — the deadliest form of childhood cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While many types of childhood brain cancers have a survival rate of 75 percent, some brain tumors like glioblastoma have a more grim prognosis, with only a 25 percent survival rate. The Eaise Family Foundation has raised almost $1 million so far to try to help boost those odds, Kevin Eaise said.

“My parents did a good job of making me realize that I was one of the lucky ones,” he said.

During his trips to the hospital for his annual checkup and MRI, which he did until he was 20, Eaise said he was sometimes the only patient in the waiting room with a healthy head of hair.

“I’d see kids who were struggling through chemotherapy and radiation, and I looked up to them for how brave they were,” he said. “That always stayed with me as I grew up.”

Kevin Eaise at a University of Pennsylvania baseball game in March 2022. (University of Pennsylvania)

His current research job has helped confirm that he’s on the right career path, he said. Last November, he traveled to Delaware with Storm to share his story at Storm’s former prep school, Archmere Academy.

Kevin Eaise, left, with Phillip B. Storm at Archmere Academy in Delaware, where they talked to students last year. (Archmere Academy)

“I’m really happy that I connected with him when I was young, even though it was an unfortunate circumstance at the time,” Eaise said. “Making a difference with him now at the hospital where I was a patient means a lot.”

Storm said he, too, is awed at his former patient’s path.

“Kevin went from thinking he might need glasses to needing brain surgery,” he said. “I’m humbled and inspired every day that he wanted to join us.”

Additional Media Coverage

6ABC: Former CHOP patient now working as research assistant alongside doctor who saved his life

Good Morning America: Former brain surgery patient now works alongside doctor who operated on him