With a son who is legally blind, Lisa Pleasants works to raise funds for research – Florida Times-Union

Posted: July 5, 2017 at 5:46 am

Even while she was pregnant with her son Brendon, now 18, Lisa Pleasants knew there was a possibility he would be born with a rare genetic condition that could leave him legally blind.

Pleasants has two brothers and a cousin who were born with X-linked retinoschisis, which causes layers of the retina to separate. It is the leading cause of juvenile macular degeneration in males.

Brendon Pleasants is legally blind. He uses magnifiers, large-print books, a camera connected to a computer, a Galaxy S6 cell phone and an iPad to read. Without assistance, he can read the top two lines of an eye chart. But his vision is getting worse over time, he said.

A recent graduate of Mandarin High School, Brendan was an honor roll student who ran track and cross country and earned a black belt in karate.

His mom is founder of MOMS for Sight, a nonprofit working to fund research into and raise awareness about retinal degenerative diseases.

MOMS for Sights primary fundraiser is its annual Black Ties &Blindfolds gala. MOMS for Sight also participates in the Foundation Fighting Blindnesss annual Vision Walk and sells MOMS for Sight bracelets through the website http://www.momsforsight.org, where she also writes an occasional blog.

This year MOMS for Sight raised $18,000, part of $86,000 raised in Jacksonville for the Foundation Fighting Blindness.

Both Lisa and Brendon Pleasants see gene therapy as their hope for the future. His condition is caused by the lack of a certain protein. They have been excited about the research into gene therapy being done by William W. Hauswirth, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Florida. Hauswirth is an innovator of delivery systems for sight-saving gene therapies that could provide the missing protein.

In April 2016, MOMS for Sight honored Shannon Boye, an assistant professor in University of Florida Department of Ophthalmology, who works with Hauswirth, with its MOMS for Sight Visionary award during the Black Tie &Blindfolds gala.

Last winter, Brendon was initially accepted into a gene therapy trial in Boston. But testing revealed that he had high pressure in his eyes, something hed never had before.

High eye pressure is a warning sign for glaucoma and Brendon had to leave the trial and return to Jacksonville to get laser treatment for his glaucoma.

In one of her MOMS for Sight blogs, Lisa Pleasants wrote about their disappointment at not starting the trial: This post is most likely the hardest one Ive ever written and it has taken me a few weeks to gather my emotions . We were absolutely crushed . The doctor in Boston told us, as he saw my tears forming, that everything happens for a reason and that we should be thankful we found this new issue early. I am thankful.

The Pleasant are hopeful Brendon will eventually get admitted to a trial. In the meantime, hes preparing to head to Orlando to attend the University of Central Florida, where he wants to study engineering.

His goal is to become an aerospace engineer. Hes been fascinated by the space program since he was a little boy.

When he was 4 years old, Lisa Pleasants said, he told me, I dont want to be on the rocket that goes into space. I want to build the rocket that goes into space.

At UCF, Brendon Pleasants will live in a dorm. Hes confident hell have no difficulties finding his way around campus. If he wants or needs to go somewhere off campus, he can call for an Uber or catch a ride with friends. Hes looking forward to the experience.

I like feeling independent, he said.

Charlie Patton: (904) 359-4413

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With a son who is legally blind, Lisa Pleasants works to raise funds for research – Florida Times-Union

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