Mitch is 71 years old and lives in Brooklyn, New York. He speaks multiple languages and is a retired hospital administrator. Now, he is a writer, a film critic, and a French translator.

In June 2021, Mitch had open heart surgery due to heart failure. During his recovery, he woke up one day, and the vision in his left eye was off and had become very cloudy. The doctors called it a stroke code, and an ophthalmologist at the hospital examined him. After he was discharged, his regular ophthalmologist determined that Mitch had suffered a stroke in his left eye called Non-Ateritic Ischemic Optic Neuropathy (NAION). He was referred to a neuro-ophthalmologist who told him there was no treatment for the syndrome and that in 30% of cases of people with NAION, it occurs in the other eye. Four months later, Mitch woke up to discover he had lost some of the vision in his right eye. He has also been diagnosed with Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS), a condition that some individuals experience when they lose some or all their vision, which causes visual hallucinations.

After losing the vision in his right eye, Mitch had a follow-up appointment with his neuro-ophthalmologist. He said he was told that nothing could be done to improve his vision. When Mitch lost sight in his left eye, he hesitated going to the neuro-ophthalmologist for a couple of months because, as he understood it, nothing could improve his vision.

Mitch Learns About Lighthouse Guild

At the follow-up appointment with his neuro-ophthalmologist, it was believed he had low vision and was referred to Lighthouse Guild for assistance and to schedule an appointment with a low vision specialist. A referral was immediately sent to Lighthouse Guild.

You've got to go to Lighthouse Guild because there are things they can give you that can help you to maximize your vision."

Mitch, Client

Low Vision Exam

Mitch reached out to Outreach and Referral Coordinator Lisa Miller, who set in motion the intake process at Lighthouse Guild and scheduled an appointment for a low vision exam with Dr. Bruce Rosenthal, former Chief of Low Vision Services. Mitch was unsure whether he met the criteria for legal blindness. At that time, if he looked at an eye chart for an extended period, he would eventually be able to focus and see the chart since his vision loss was complete in fifty percent of his left eye and forty percent in his right eye, with everything seen through a fog.

Following the vision examination, and once Mitch explained to Dr. Rosenthal about his profession and his primary interests — reading, watching films, and visiting museums — Dr. Rosenthal diagnosed Mitch with low vision. For his lifestyle, Mitch considered himself blind. Dr. Rosenthal prepared the necessary documents following the examination, and they were submitted to the New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB).

Two weeks later, Mitch received documentation from the NYSCB confirming the diagnosis of low vision and affirming his diagnosis of being legally blind.

After his legal blindness diagnosis, Mitch returned for a follow-up appointment with Dr. Rosenthal, who provided him with devices enabling him to surmount his vision loss as best as possible.

Mitch said, “Dr. Rosenthal is really great and a very nice gentleman. Once I explained to Dr. Rosenthal all the things that I do in my work and everyday life, he provided me with several different pairs of glasses, all for different purposes, that helped to restore color and make my eyes strong enough so I could again watch a film and read subtitles and understand what’s going on.” Mitch continued, “I explained to Dr. Rosenthal that I sometimes find it difficult to find where the traffic lights are, and he gave me glasses to help me with that, too.” Dr. Rosenthal also provided Mitch with a guided tour of the Lighthouse Guild Technology Center to demonstrate some of the many accessible technology devices that are available to help him.

Vocational Rehabilitation

Mitch said, “Immediately following my confirmed diagnosis of having low vision, a Lighthouse Guild social worker followed up with me and arrived for a home visit. She arrived with a goodie bag that included writing pads with large, spaced lines; markers; a talking clock with the date and time; a watch with large numbers; a calendar with enlarged numbers; and other helpful items.”

Orientation and Mobility Training

The next step was for a Lighthouse Guild Orientation and Mobility Instructor to come to Mitch’s home to train him on using the white cane.

Mitch said, “I was scared to death being out on the streets without the cane. Being in New York City, as soon as you cross the street you are a target. I wanted that cane, and I wanted it badly and right away. I was operating under the mistaken impression that drivers, on seeing me with a cane, would know that I can’t see them, and it might help to protect me.”

Mitch thought he would need to travel to Lighthouse Guild for the white cane training. However, when he heard from former Senior Orientation and Mobility Instructor Carol Moog, she informed him that she would be coming to him. Mitch said, “Carol arrived at my home and took me through all the possible scenarios so I could master my skills when using the white cane. She took me up and down the stairs in my house and down all the streets in my neighborhood that I normally walk. We rode the bus, maneuvered the curbs and street crossings, and more. She was an excellent teacher, and I got the distinct impression that Carol is someone who really loves the work that she does.”

Mitch shares that during the training, he learned the eclectic needs for crossing the street — to only cross the street when the light turns green and not when the light is already green, and how to establish ownership of the crosswalk. Mitch said, “I think of Carol as being similar to a traveling ambassador for Lighthouse Guild and for the visually impaired of New York City since the majority of her work is on the road, and she is in three to four different neighborhoods a day.”

Advice for Someone Recently Diagnosed with a Vision Loss

Mitch said, “I would say don’t expect people to defer to you in any way, and you’ve got to go to Lighthouse Guild because there are things they can give you that can help you to maximize your vision. You are not going to make it on your own, and you should not give up and think this is what my situation is and that nothing is going to help. If I could sum things up, I would say I’m a writer, and I have continued to write. I’m a film critic, and I continue to watch films and write about them, despite the difficulties and limitations, but I’ve found ways to get around. If you have low vision, there are things out there that are available to you, and if you go to the Lighthouse Guild, I’m certain that everyone else will receive the same treatment I received.”

“In my time receiving vision care from Lighthouse Guild, they have shown me that something as simple as my vision, which seemed like I was seeing through fog, provided me with glasses that cut through that fog. Who’d have thought it? In my limited time going to Lighthouse Guild, everybody there had something for me.”

Mitch Looks to the Future. Mitch’s essay, “The Blind Man,” was recently published on His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, Cineaste, Foreign Affairs, and many other publications. He is currently writing a biography of the French-language novelist and political figure Victor Serge that will be published by Pluto Press in 2024. He had two books appearing in the summer of 2023, adding to the dozen he has already published. He is also a percussionist and played the role of Pierre Langevin in the film The Days of the Commune

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