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Gaye is an advocate for glaucoma research and education, and a donor supporting Glaucoma Research Foundation and our mission to cure glaucoma and restore vision through innovative research.
Gaye Leonard: I had seen the [Gleams] newsletters in my various doctor's offices that I visited about my glaucoma and started learning more about it, and went to the [www.glaucoma.org] website. One of the things I really enjoyed doing was that I was able to make a donation [to Glaucoma Research Foundation] honoring the surgeon that I've been working with, Michael Stiles, in Overland Park. I've been seeing him for 12 years now, I think, and it was a nice way to honor him and participate in the research that's going on that's so critical.
Interestingly enough, I was diagnosed with glaucoma at the age of 40. I was aware that my grandmother at the time was using drops for glaucoma and my father had started using drops for glaucoma. It had not really occurred to me. I didn't know it was hereditary, but at the age of 40, I had a very in-depth physical. I was actually working for an ophthalmology group at the time without ever having had my pressures checked because my vision was really very good. The doctor that did my physical asked me if I had glaucoma in my family. It was part of the family history that I noted. So, she suggested that I have my pressures checked, and my pressures at that first time were… I was just identified as a [glaucoma] suspect. But as they did further research [eye exams], my optic nerve damage was pretty significant. So that really started me down the road of treatment for glaucoma. I guess that was about 18 years ago.
My case is unique, I think, in that I have a much stronger, more significant, case of glaucoma than my grandmother or my father had. And so it makes me wonder what might be ahead for my three sons and their families going forward. That concerns me a lot. I'm also concerned that I want to ‘outlive’ my vision and I'm told that I probably will. But I am on the younger side of people, with this significant of an unmanageable interocular pressure that I've had. So it's something I think quite a lot about. Am I going to see my grandchildren? Am I going to be disabled visually before I want to be done working and doing the things I love to do?
Finding a cure for glaucoma will ensure that there's never a threat to someone like myself of losing vision. And unfortunately, some people lose their vision at a very young age through glaucoma, so that obviously will be addressed. And being able to see the world, and in everything we do, vision is so very important. I really believe that in this age of scientific innovation and discovery, where some of the treatments are still, they've been around for many, many years. So there's a lot of opportunity to improve that, which in the course of that should be able to end this disease for the future and for future generations.
Last reviewed on March 10, 2020