Seeing vision loss on a personal level
"I've been making health films for years, but this is the first time the health issue is my own," says Joseph Lovett in the opening scene of "Going Blind," a documentary about seven individuals struggling with vision loss.
Mr. Lovett, the Peabody Award winner who wrote, directed, and produced the film, suffers from glaucoma, an eye condition that damages the optic nerve and leads to blindness if untreated. After years of dealing with vision loss, he made the film to explore how people deal with losing their sight.
At a recent screening and panel discussion held by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, director of UPMC Eye Center Joel Schuman praised the film, saying, "Joe Lovett's film does a service to both patients and their physicians."
Mr. Lovett's cast of characters includes Jessica Jones, a New York City art teacher who lost her vision to diabetic retinopathy at age 32; Emmet Teran, an 11-year-old who inherited albinism and low vision from his father; Steve Baskis, a Texas native and Army veteran who suffered nerve damage to his eyes when a roadside bomb hit his vehicle north of Baghdad; Pat Williams, a legally blind woman who works to strike a balance between asserting her independence and accepting help from family; Peter D'Elia, an 85-year-old architect suffering from macular degeneration; and Ray Kornman, a man blinded by retinitis pigmentosa.
Interwoven with their stories are snapshots of Mr. Lovett's battle with glaucoma: surgeries, therapy and support from friends.
He began to realize he had a vision problem when he struggled to find his partner in the airport and failed to notice potholes while biking.
"I worry constantly about the future," Mr. Lovett said. "What will it be like if I can't read a newspaper, drive a car, see a sunset or the faces I love?"
The six visually impaired individuals he follows explain how they cope with vision loss and prepare Mr. Lovett for life without sight.
"You learn to use what you have," Ms. Jones says.
Ms. Jones, who continues to teach art to visually impaired children after losing her sight, describes the color gray to a student who was born blind: "You know what the street smells like when it rains in August?"
Ms. Williams admits that her hesitancy to use a cane stems from a desire to pass as sighted.
"I don't want to be identified as a blind person," she said. "And I can't see the crosswalk."
In the panel discussion following the screening, Mr. Lovett voiced his frustration with the disconnect between the feedback he received from his physicians and his daily experience with glaucoma.
"I really had to have a good deal of vision loss before I really understood what was going on," he said, stressing the need for patients to understand how their condition will progress and the need for the medical community to deal with the psychosocial impact of vision loss.
The film is available for both educational and individual use. For information about the film: www.goingblindmovie.com.
First Published October 3, 2011 12:00 am