Going blind: a patient's story

Oct 01, 2008

US documentary film director Joseph Lovett discusses his latest film project, which he hopes will change public and ophthalmologists' perception of blindness.

Key Points

We speak, we research and we write about some impressive developments, yet sadly, there are many patients who will still lose their vision, irrespective of the surgical or therapeutic interventions administered.

For an ophthalmologist, this is the worst part of the job. As somebody who is passionate about saving people's sight, knowing that there is little that can be done to prevent blindness is a difficult pill to swallow.

Opening eyes to the reality

A glaucoma sufferer himself, Mr Lovett has been progressively losing his vision since he received the diagnosis 20 years ago. Having spoken with people who had lost their sight or who had lost a significant portion of it, he decided to make a film that would not only help patients and relatives, but that would also help the ophthalmology community in their patient education efforts.

"The stories they told me of adapting to vision loss, of changes in attitudes to their lives from themselves, their families, friends and colleagues, were truly inspiring and I thought this would make a great film," he added.

Making the film also helps Mr Lovett to objectify many of the issues with which he is confronted. "It is sort of like a war photographer whose lens objectifies the danger he or she faces," he said.

The making of a film

The film uses Mr Lovett's experience - over a few years of learning about vision loss and making decisions about what to do next about his eye care - as a thread on which to hang the stories of others who have already gone through a similar experience.

One of the people featured is Jessica Jones, a young artist and art teacher whose diabetic retinopathy caused her to lose her vision rapidly. Jessica teaches multiply handicapped children, all of whom have severe vision loss. Another of the stories featured in the film is that of Peter D'Elia, an active architect in his 80's, who lost vision in one eye from macular degeneration a decade ago. When his other eye started to deteriorate from age-related macular degeneration (AMD) recently, Peter's ophthalmologist was able to save his vision and restore the sight in his second eye.

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