FrogTown Low Vision Support Group actually was born over 40 years ago through friendships and circumstances.
Myself Paul (Rocky), wife Jan, friends Bob and Carolyn Koch and Ron and Shirley Thompson, forged friendships while living in the same neighborhood. Our children grew up and played together and we, as parents played cards and shared our lives with each other. At one time, Jan and I moved out of the neighborhood but, in the early 90’s moved back. We had kept in touch with our friends and resumed our favorite pastime of playing cards at our respective houses every month.
Then, in 2004, the first of life changing tragedies struck our group. I went through a series or three retinal detachment surgeries, the last one being silicone oil placed in my right eye to hold the retina in place. At that time, the retinal specialist I had been seeing who did the surgeries told me the silicone oil would have to be taken out within a year to prevent damage to the cornea. During childhood I injured my left eye and had very limited sight in that eye. The best I could read was the big E on the eye chart. So now, this was my good eye in jeopardy. After a time, I became acquainted with the Sight Center Of Northwest Ohio, who helped me obtain devices to gain some sight and advice on how to adjust to a new life of low vision.
The silicone oil had been in for over a year and my sight was failing to almost total blindness. I sought out my retinal doctor and even though he ran tests, he could find nothing wrong. He refused to remove the oil even as he had told me that it couldn’t remain in longer then a year for it would destroy the cornea. I was devastated. So much so that I contemplated suicide.
I tried to find a support group where I could vent my anger and speak of my fear, but none was to be found. Even though, through the Sight Center, I met totally blind individuals as was Gil Lutz, (who is a member of our group) that were living useful and happy lives. I didn’t feel connected to these people. I needed something more. I started depending on my friends more and more and at that time, we started calling ourselves the FrogTown Group (Jan’s idea because of our hometown onetime nickname).
In 2007, another member of our group became afflicted with Macular Degeneration. Shirley was seeing Dr. J Gregory Rosenthal and suggested that I see him for a second opinion. I will be forever thankful to Shirley as I felt an immediate connection to Dr. Rosenthal. He really cared! After the tests were finished, the first words out of his mouth were: “Why is the silicone oil still in?; It is leaking.” Because it was leaking, it was also destroying the cornea which gave me the answer as to why my eyesight was getting worse.
We scheduled surgery in December of 2007 for removal of the silicone oil and some repairs to the retina by Dr. Rosenthal, which was a success. Dr. Qais Farjo, a cornea specialist did a partial cornea transplant a couple of months later. The results of these two surgeries were amazing and to this day, March 12, 2013, my retina is still stable. I am able, with the help of a visual magnifier, to read books, address envelopes, read four lines on the eye chart, and read correspondence. With Zoom Text on the computer, I can communicate with others. The improvements were slow in coming but they definitely helped improve my outlook on life.
About the time of my diagnosis, a third member of our group, Carolyn, came down with Diabetic Retinopathy and also began seeing Dr. Rosenthal. With the three of us having serious problems, we unofficially started supporting each other and the name became FrogTown Low Vision Support Group. The big topic of our monthly card games was discussing treatments and giving encouragement. What makes this so rewarding, is that our spouses were right there with us all the time sharing their views and offering their support.
In April of 2009, Bonnie Shefdore of The Sight Center Of NW Ohio invited the six of us to get involved in an 8 week low vision support group course concerning most of the problems that the vision impaired come into contact with. Upon completion of the course which filled in some of the holes of what I along with Jan, my wife, had been searching for, we agreed to expand upon that which we had been unofficially began a long time ago.On June 2nd of 2009, Jan and I moved the FrogTown Low Vision Support Group into the public arena within the Lucas County Library system. We offer hope, laughter, friendship and information to our group. We listen and let the vision impaired along with their spouses and caretakers know that they are not alone. We offer a forum for the caretaker to express themselves as well as the one with the vision problem. We offer education in the form of guest speakers such as Dr. Rosenthal. We offer information relating to their everyday living with articles or guest speakers demonstrating devices or organizations such as the Lucas County Library informing the vision impaired of the services offered through the library system.
Not enough can be said of the Lucas County Library system, where we hold our monthly meetings, for their support of our cause. With their blessings, we are able to have guest speakers, serve coffee, snacks, and occasionally finger foods for our October Feast. In September, we hold a product show on the library premises and in June and December FrogTown sponsors a picnic and Christmas Party elsewhere as the library does not have the facilities for meetings of this type.
We, of FrogTown Low Vision Support Group are coming upon our 8th anniversary and with the Grace of God, and the help of those sponsoring our endeavors, we hope to celebrate many more.The picnic and Christmas party are our crowning achievements and this year in February 2013, the most meaningful and poignant monthly meeting of the FrogTown Low Vision Support Group ever, was the Caregiver Appreciation Day that we put on with the idea blossoming from member Barbara Servais. Members Tom Dimit and Theresa Carroll were instrumental in providing flowers and Robin Malone and Mary Ann Smith brought cookies and snacks. The vision impaired thanked their caregivers and there were many moist eyes in the room that day. It just can’t get any better then this!
Our group is very diverse in age and talent. So many wanting to help in every endeavor including setup and take down, supplies, decorating, food, ideas, insight, and just plain giving of oneself in friendship and fun. I could never have envisioned what FrogTown has become. It did take a lot of time and work with Jan making flyers and the two of us pounding the pavement dropping off the flyers everywhere that we thought would spur interest in the support of the vision impaired.
I sincerely hope that my story will be an inspiration for others who are concerned with the well being of the vision impaired and for all those who also are affected by the misfortune of a loved one. There is no greater reward then watching someone who comes to our meetings with their head down and within a couple of months their head is held high with a smile on their face and with a new appreciation of life.
Paul and Jan Rachow