Anne Ford 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Novel Treatment–and Energetic Fundraising– Restore Young Man’s Sight One day about five years ago, Mary Peterson of Carmel, New York, wanted to know how her son was recovering from his latest migraine. Tim, 16, had been suffering for a few years from recurring debilitating headaches that left him flat on his back in a dark room, eyes squeezed tight against the painful light. “He would lose days sometimes,” she says. That down time was especially annoying for Tim, a handsome, energetic honor student who—between keeping up his grades and working at McDonald’s—seemed always on the go. “Tim wanted to become president to change the law so kids could work 12-hour days, because he was one of those kids.” Peterson tiptoed in, flicked on the wall switch, peeled the cold compress away from his face, and said, “Open your eyes slowly and tell me how bad it is.” “You can turn the light on now, Mom,” he replied. That’s when Peterson knew: This was no migraine. Though Tim’s eyes were wide open, he couldn’t see a thing: not her worried face hovering over him, not even the light flooding the room. “At that point, I rushed him to the car,” she remembers. “I wasn’t waiting for an ambulance.” At the hospital, doctors performed an MRI and discovered that Tim had an enormous cerebral arteriovenous malformation, or AVM. An AVM is a tangle of abnormal arteries and veins that forms in the brain. It often goes undetected for years until, as was happening with Tim, it grows large enough to put severe pressure on the brain (causing pain that can be misdiagnosed as migraines). Tim couldn’t see because his AVM was embedding itself like a corkscrew into the part of his brain responsible for sight. But more than his vision was at stake: If the AVM ruptured and hemorrhaged, it could kill him. A 16-hour operation saved Tim’s life, but left him with neurological deficits including short-term memory loss. The surgery did preserve his vision, but only partially. “Tim does not have a left visual field, which means he does not see anything on the right,” his mom explains. “It’s 100 percent neurological. There’s nothing wrong with his eyes themselves.” That was small consolation. Before the AVM attacked, Tim had been looking forward to getting his driver’s license. Afterward, even after seven months of rehabilitation, just reading a page of a book was a struggle for the former honor student. He tried to keep his spirits up by attending his younger sister Sarah’s dance performances, always jokingly telling her what a great job she’d done—even though they both knew he could no longer see well enough to spot her on stage. At the same time, Peterson was discovering that few doctors in their area specialized in neurological blindness. She began combing the country for specialists who might be able to help her son regain his full sight. “I promised Tim that if he would fight, I would fight,” she says. Hope finally dawned when she learned about Dr. Daniel Gottlieb, a Georgia optometrist who has developed a method of retraining the brain to widen its field of vision. Gottlieb’s method uses a pair of glasses that have a prism in one lens. That prism reflects images from one side of the visual field to the opposite eye. Eventually, the brain learns to perceive items in the missing visual field, but only with weeks and weeks of therapy—a $52,000 treatment that Medicaid wouldn’t cover. “The question now became: How do I get him there?” Peterson says. “I’m a single mom. How do I get my son the help that could change his life?” In response, friends and family members began to fundraise. Their efforts were Herculean, but a year later, she found herself still a few thousand dollars short of her goal. Then someone told a Lion about Tim. Glen Karoglanian, a member of the Somers Lions Club of Somers, New York, learned of the Petersons’ predicament through his wife, who works at the high school Tim attended. By pure coincidence, the Somers Lions were about to launch a fundraising effort: selling eyeglass lenscleaning kits. Another club member, James Sharp, is president of Carl Zeiss Inc., the German manufacturer of optical products, and he had worked with the lens-care company Nanofilm to create a small lens-cleaning kit that Lions clubs everywhere could sell to raise funds. (See sidebar for details.) Because the Somers Lions’ fundraiser would serve as a pilot program for kit sales around the world, members felt themselves under greater pressure to make their efforts a success. The Somers Lions knew that people would be more likely to purchase the kit if there were a specific cause attached to it, says Gary Forbes, past club president and finance committee chair. “When we have a cause, it seems to not only result in better sales to the public, but also in a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for the local Lions,” he says. “And Tim’s story pulled on your heartstrings so much.” So the Somer Lions inserted into each kit a small card that told Tim’s story. “Anybody who read that story said, ‘Give me six of ‘em,’” Forbes says. “It was unbelievable. When you went to business owners, you’d say, ‘Would you like to buy one?’ and as soon as they read his story, they’d say, ‘Give me a case of ‘em.’” The club aimed to sell 500 of the kits within 30 days. “Well, we blew the doors off that 500 within two weeks,” Forbes says. “Ultimately, we sold over 700 kits.” The $3,800 they raised was enough to finish paying for Tim’s treatment. “I have to tell you, prior to this fundraiser, I had no idea who the Lions Club was,” Peterson says. “I just didn’t know. I got a phone call that they had raised some funds for Tim. I didn’t realize what they had done, so at that presentation when they gave me the check for $3,800, which took me to my goal . . .” She trails off. “If five people can see because of Tim’s story, and five more people can be helped by the Lions via their kit, even if Tim doesn’t end up ever driving in his lifetime or can’t ever read the way he should, we’ve helped other people.” After several weeks of visual therapy at Gottlieb’s clinic in Georgia last winter, Tim has made great strides toward regaining his sight. While reading remains difficult for now, he’s completed an associates degree in culinary studies, and is working toward his bachelor’s in culinary administration. He returned from Georgia just in time for his sister’s performance as a dancing toy soldier in “The Nutcracker.” “He could get almost the whole stage in view,” Peterson says, “and he was able to locate Sarah. When she got off, she came running to him. He took flowers out from behind his back. And he said, ‘Well, Sarah, for the first time, I can actually tell you that you danced really well.’” A video of Tim’s Miracle is online in the digital LION at www.lionmagazine.org. Each Lions Lens and Screen Cleaning Kit contains a bottle of Zeiss lens cleaner, a microfiber cleaning cloth and six pre-moistened lens cleaning cloths. For each $10 kit a Lions club sells, the club receives $4, and the manufacturers donate $1.50 to the Lions Club International Foundation. Kits are sold by the case, and each case costs $216 (shipping included). The kit will be displayed at the USA/Canada Lions Leadership Forum Sept. 13-15 in Tampa. Kits can be ordered by visiting www.lionslenscleaner.com or calling (866) 560-1727.
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://digital.lionmagazine.org/article/Tim%E2%80%99s+Miracle/1145800/122435/article.html.