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"I realized that my grandmother’s vision would never be the same. This was emotionally devastating to me."
David Mittelstein was 11 when he found out his grandmother was losing her sight to glaucoma, though he didn’t fully understand the implications of the disease until years later.
David, at age 16, wrote in his essay, “My Inspiration”:
"From as early as I can remember, my grandmother has always been there for me. When my brother and I were very young, we would go with her on long walks through beautiful nature reserves to the Pacific Ocean. I always remember her as being a symbol of vitality and athleticism; sometimes she would even jog right next to my brother and me while we rode on our bicycles. However, I also have one additional pervading memory of my grandmother: the day that she was diagnosed with glaucoma."
"I soon realized that my grandmother’s vision would never be the same. Though she was ultimately able to maintain her vision through the use of medication, she could no longer go on long walks with us without stumbling over an obstruction on the ground that she simply could not see. This was emotionally devastating to me as a child."
David knew he wanted to do something to help raise awareness about glaucoma among the senior community, so others like his grandmother would not need to lose sight to glaucoma. In fall 2007, he started Vision For Vision, initially a club at his high school that is now an active non-profit community service organization of teens raising glaucoma awareness with presentations to elders at senior citizen centers.
“At these presentations, I can always find someone who reminds me, just a little bit, of my grandmother. This constant reminder has been my motivation to ensure that the vision of our elders does not fade away due to an otherwise treatable condition,” he said. “I truly hope that our awareness campaigns for glaucoma will save the vision of other grandparents, and allow them to enjoy the companionship of their grandchildren for the rest of their lives.”
8-year-old Quintin Bethge has glaucoma
Quintin Bethge is 8. He has glaucoma. Quintin’s mother and father, Wendy and Brian, have been by his side as he braved more than 11 surgeries to protect his vision.
With excellent care from glaucoma specialist, Joseph Caprioli, MD, Jules Stein Eye Institute UCLA and Pediatric Ophthalmologist, Yvette Jockin, MD, Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego, and the love and support of his parents, grandparents, and friends, Quintin is leading the active life of an 8-year old boy — playing soccer, learning karate, doing Cub Scout activities, and looking out for his little sister.
His glaucoma is being successfully controlled by valve implants and medications, but for Quintin his eye disease will be a lifelong condition. His grandmother Maryalice told us, “Every day I am thankful when I see Quintin doing so well.”
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve. A complicated and often misunderstood disease, glaucoma affects people of all ages and is the leading cause of irreversible blindness.
Quintin Bethge was born with congenital glaucoma, a relatively rare form that is especially severe and challenging to treat. When his grandparents celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary, they asked that in lieu of gifts, guests give a donation to the Glaucoma Research Foundation. $1,719 was raised to support glaucoma research thanks to their generosity.
We know from research that glaucoma runs in families. The genetic component of glaucoma is complex and studies are continuing to identify genes that are culpable in the disease. With early detection and treatment, vision can be preserved, but sight lost to glaucoma cannot be restored. That’s why it’s especially important if glaucoma is in your family, that your other family members have their eyes checked regularly.
David Mittelstein is the founder of Vision For Vision. To learn more about the Vision For Vision program and about David’s efforts to combat glaucoma in his community, visit www.visionforvision.org. The Glaucoma Research Foundation supports Vision For Vision with free educational materials.
Quintin Bethge: As a baby, Quintin’s photo and story appeared in Gleams and in the Glaucoma Research Foundation Annual Report. His grandparents, family and friends have donated money for glaucoma research in his honor.
Last reviewed on October 29, 2017
This article appeared in the January 2009 issue of Gleams.Subscribe