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When Glaucoma Research Foundation (GRF) first learned of Danielle Fiarito, she was a teenager coping bravely with her disease.
Diagnosed with glaucoma at age 4, by the time she was in high school she was blind in her left eye and had undergone surgery to save her right eye. Despite all this, Danielle competed at the state-level in cross-country and track and graduated high school on time. Her fighting spirit, along with the dedicated support of her father, Dan, her mother, Maureen, and her younger brothers, Jake and Corey, gave her the strength and confidence to succeed. Danielle went on to Carthage College in Wisconsin, majoring in graphic design and communication, and everything was fine…until her sophomore year.
“I started feeling a strong pressure in my right eye and throbbing for hours in the middle of the night. I couldn’t sleep or study,” she says. “It got to the point that I couldn’t live like that anymore.” After weighing the advice of doctors and many tearful family discussions, Danielle and her parents decided to do the unthinkable. They agreed to surgery that would remove Danielle’s left eye.
Glaucoma not only affects the person coping with the disease, but also that person’s entire family. And it is the family’s loving support that often makes all the difference. Understandably, Danielle went through a period of depression and sadness, but with her family at her side, she rebounded. “It’s hard to lose a part of yourself. I was afraid people would look at me differently, but the technology has come so far, most people can’t even tell I have a prosthetic eye.”
With her family’s encouragement, Danielle went back to college, and resumed cross-country and track. She eventually earned her degree in graphic design. “Losing my eye was not the end of the world,” she says. “It was definitely not easy, but I want people to know you can still be successful.”
“You can never tell Danielle she can’t do something because she’ll just fight harder to prove herself,” says her mother, Maureen. “She has a strong work ethic, determination and a never-quit attitude. We believe that everything in life happens for a reason and I think she now does too.” Danielle and her family have been a constant source of inspiration and support for her, and for us at GRF. Since 2003, they have helped raise awareness about glaucoma and thousands of dollars for research.
“As parents, fundraising for GRF helps us feel like we were doing something to help Danielle and so many others,” says Dan. “Our hope has always been that a cure will be discovered in her lifetime, and prevent others from having to manage this challenging disease.”
Since Danielle first shared her story on our website five years ago, many young people with glaucoma have reached out to her on Facebook. “It was really cool to know people were inspired by my story-people from New York, Canada, Ohio, Argentina, and Saudi Arabia. It really touched me. I want to make people feel supported and give them hope. I want to spread awareness any way I can.”
Today, Danielle is 22 and has launched a graphic design career with a firm outside Chicago. “I couldn’t be happier right now,” she says. “It’s hard and scary, but a positive attitude is everything. You’ve got to have hope. And I’m very hopeful about the future.”
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Last reviewed on December 08, 2016