Glenn Beck, who has moved up through the ranks of the despicable and self-aggrandizing, has now been handed an opportunity to turn the enigmatic energy that appeals to millions into a positive force.
Beck has announced (LINK) that he has been diagnosed with macular dystrophy, one of a group of retinal disorders including retinitis pigmentosa (RP), which has affected my own family for generations. These retinal disorders, which include macular degeneration affecting one in 10 Americans over age 65, lead to legal then total blindness.
Despite my feelings about Beck as a political propagandist, I empathize when he says, “I know what my wife looks like. I know what my children look like. I have a great imagination. I know what color looks like. But I love to read. I thought to myself I’m too darn lazy to learn Braille.”
To best explain how retinal disorders affect a person’s life one need only note the functions of the normal retina.
In the normal eye, sight is processed through the cornea, iris, pupil and lens toward its final destination: the retina, a layer of nerve tissue which lines the back of the eye. At the center of the retina is the macula. Only 1.5 millimeters in diameter, the macula is responsible for the clearest, most detailed vision. (www.eyenet.com, official site of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.)
The retina is made up of two types of cells: rods and cones. The rods are designed for night vision, allow the detection of movement and objects and provide peripheral vision – what a person sees out of the so-called “corner of the eye.” Millions of cone cells, sensitive to light, detail and color, are packed into the macula. Cones provide the visual details which allow the normal eye to scan an eye chart, see a stop sign or read a newspaper. To experience the sensation known as color, the cones have three different pigments which act as a palette mixing blue, red or green wavelengths of light. If a person is missing one or more of the pigments, color-blindness results. (“Vision and Aging,” Eleanor E. Faye, B.A., M.D., Ophthalmologist, Editor. The Lighthouse International.)
Quite simply, retinal disorders destroy the functions of the normal retina.
The Foundation Fighting Blindness (LINK), formerly The Retinitis Pigmentosa Foundation, is the national clearinghouse for research for a cure and even a reversal of vision loss. Amazing advances have been made toward this end.
Mr. Beck can now use his broadcast influence to call attention to these robbers of vision in much the same way Michael J. Fox, the late Christopher Reeve and Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn have used their afflictions to stir interest in and stimulate contributions for medical research.
Beck says he could be blind in a year – plenty of time to see the light, to stop tilting at windmills and to devote his energies to the common good.