From as early as I can remember, my grandmother has always been there for me. She was with me when I was scared on the first day of pre-school, when I learned how to tie my shoes, and when I first rode my bicycle. 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 didn’t truly understand it at the time, but 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 notThis was emotionally devastating to me as a child, but the larger impact was yet to be presented to me until much later in life. Throughout high school, I became very interested in the functionality of the eye and began to research more about glaucoma. I learned that glaucoma is actually a treatable condition that can be caught early enough to prevent blindness. However, I also learned that the only way to truly determine if one has glaucoma is to have a dilated eye exam by an ophthalmologist rather than the more common refractive tests that are performed regularly in general optometrist offices.With my more refined knowledge of glaucoma, I began wondering whether there were other people in the world who, like my grandmother, were slowly and unknowingly going blind.
Inspired, I formed a California non-profit organization called Vision for Vision. This organization is dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of annual dilated vision testing for individuals at risk of contracting glaucoma. We conduct awareness campaigns through presentations at senior centers, which introduce these elders to medical clinics that offer free dilated eye exams sponsored by National Eye Institute.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 curable condition. It has been this thought that has driven me to develop my organization into the active non-profit community service organization that it is today.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. If I can prevent just one grandparent from going blind from glaucoma, I will be proud to have joined in this fight against the innocent ignorance that was responsible for my own grandmother’s vision loss.