IOWA CITY (MCT) — Make a circle with your thumb and pointer finger, and hold it to your eye. Now make the circle smaller, and smaller still, until only a narrow hole remains.
That is how Leo Hauser sees out of his left eye. His right eye has only light and dark perception.
“Over the last 15 years, my eye sight has deteriorated greatly,” said Hauser, 62, of Scottsdale, Ariz. “But I’m more than hopeful they will come up with something to restore it.”
Hauser credits his optimism to the University of Iowa and the work being done in what today will be dedicated as the UI Stephen A. Wynn Institute for Vision Research. Wynn, a Las Vegas businessman with a personal history of vision impairment, enabled the UI to bring its vision research centers under one institutional umbrella with a $25 million gift in August.
Hauser, who serves on the UI vision institute’s board, said the massive gift will enable research to prevent and cure blinding eye disease for people around the globe.
“I believe the work that is being done there is going to offer vision to people who have been living in darkness for years,” Hauser said. “It’s earth shattering and mind boggling. It’s that once in a lifetime break through, and I’m very lucky to be associated with it.”
When Hauser first learned that he would lose his sight, it was 1998 and he was 48. He was living in New Jersey, working in St. Louis and had started running into things. The first doctor he saw said, “We don’t know much about it, but you’re going to go blind.”
That wasn’t acceptable to Hauser, who went looking for a second opinion. He landed upon the UI vision research centers and made an appointment in Iowa City. The UI doctor’s assessment during that visit changed Hauser’s life.
“He said, and I’ll never forget it, ‘Go home and have a bottle of champagne. You’re going to have vision for years to come, and we’re going to find the cure. We are going to beat this thing.’” Hauser said. “That message was such a different message from, ‘Go home and go blind.’”
Researchers have not yet landed on a cure for Hauser’s condition, but Wynn’s gift – among the six largest in UI history – has him more than hopeful they will.
“I’m convinced that within the next three years, my vision will be substantially improved,” Hauser said.
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