Social media helps man get vision-saving surgery

A mother in San Jose reached out to for help because her daughter's fiance needs surgery to save his sight.
November 13, 2013 9:26:29 PM PST
Social media can be a force for change. We've seen the power of reaching out on it and how the kindness of strangers can make a difference. ABC7 News anchor Cheryl Jennings witnessed it first-hand.

A mother in San Jose reached out to me on social media for help because her daughter's fianc? needed surgery to save his sight and the family can't afford it. I sent a message out on Facebook and Twitter, not expecting anything, but what happened next turned out to be a miracle.

William Fleming and his fianc?e Nina Baca want William to be able to see their five children grow up. William also wants to continue to work to support the family, but he has a rare eye disease that is causing him to slowly lose his vision.

Keratoconus is a condition in which the central portion of the cornea becomes thinner and bulges forward like a cone. It affects one in 500 people.

"It's like looking through a dirty window," William said.

William wears large, hard contact lenses right now so he can see and work and drive. He's a former college football player who is now a caregiver for his fianc?e's brother, Bo, who has cerebral palsy.

William and Nina talked to a number of doctors about his keratoconus. They recommended cornea transplants.

"But those are so invasive and just painful; the recovery time is a year for each eye," Nina said.

Their research led them to Dr. Brian Boxer-Wachler in Beverly Hills, who's created a procedure for correcting the damage. But it costs $18,000 and is not covered by insurance.

So the family placed an appeal for money on the giveforward.org charity website with little success. That's when Nina's mother, Desiree Martin, sent me a message through Facebook.

"I said, let's see if we can get somebody out there that might help us and I thought of you guys, because that's all I watch is Channel 7 News," Desiree said.

I put Desiree's plea on my Facebook page and sent out a tweet. Just a few days later, I received an email from Dr. Brian Boxer-Wachler's publicist. The email said: "Someone who saw your tweet...is interested in helping William with the cost of his procedure..."

I wanted to call William right away, but the doctor wanted to tell William himself.

So, I kept the secret and joined the family in San Jose as they learned the good news from the man we call Dr. Brian.

"An anonymous donor has stepped in and was very moved by hearing about you and they're actually going to take care of the procedure for you and you'll be able to have the procedure," Dr. Brian told them.

There are so many requests for help on social media that don't get answered, but in William's case, somebody stepped up and said "I will help you." For William, that's going to make all the difference for him and his family.

ABC7 News will be there to see William get that much-needed eye surgery in Los Angeles and bring you that follow-up to his story.

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