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Eyes on the Finish Line

Patient Stories

Twenty-four-year-old Liza Welch shares her experience with Mass Eye and Ear, and what’s inspired her to run the 126th Boston Marathon.

In elementary school, Liza Welch knew her eyesight was worse than the other kids’ in her class. When she had eye tests done, though, it was in a controlled environment, without glare or poor lighting. And so for a long time, it seemed like all she would need was glasses. But outside of the exam room, her glasses didn’t quite cut it.

“My vision was bad in exams, but even worse in practice,” Liza says. “It wasn’t long before I was diagnosed with cataracts – posterior polar cataracts, which are uncommon, especially in younger people.”

Posterior polar cataracts are a type of cataract that, because of their location, can be difficult to remove and often lead to complications. This rarer form of cataract can require specialized care, especially in children.

Shortly after her diagnosis, Liza came to Mass Eye and Ear for treatment and met Roberto Pineda, MD. She had her first cataract surgery at age 16, followed by a second surgery 7 years later.  “It was life-changing to get the first surgery done,” Liza says. “Everything looked different. Even looking at myself in the mirror, I looked different.”

A life in athletics

Liza recently running a 20-mile race in New Hampshire.

“After surgery, I played field hockey in college, and then I moved to Ireland to play and coach full time for a year. Having the cataract surgery enabled me play the sport I love and to get a bigger scholarship for the next level.”

When Mass Eye and Ear first contacted Liza about the marathon, she was unsure. “I’ve never had any desire to run a marathon before,” she explains, “but Dr. Pineda was amazing – other doctors or other hospitals wouldn’t have been able to do what he did, especially considering the size of my cataracts.” For Liza, running the marathon is the perfect way to both challenge herself and give back.

Liza’s field hockey career has helped prepare her for the marathon, but there are others she credits as well. “It’s been amazing. As part of the Mass Eye and Ear team, I have two incredible coaches – Coaches Fred Treseler and John Furey.  They lead us through two scheduled runs each week. I have access to so much more training information than I would have ever thought.”

A few weeks ago, she did a 20-mile run in preparation. “It was a bit hectic, but I felt good.” That’s her main goal going into the marathon – to feel good at the finish line.

A lifelong support system

Liza Welch (right) and her mom, Alex Welch.

“I think everyone around me knows how important this is to me,” she says. “They remember me in high school with the eye patch I wore after surgery. I’ve always been the person with eyes way older than the rest of me, but Dr. Pineda is an artist. I can see now.”

To sum it up – Liza’s excited. “Super excited. All my friends are super excited. It’s a really cool group of people, and I’m really glad that I did it – or, that I’m going to do it.”

Good luck to Liza and the rest of Team Eye and Ear! Donate to members of Team Eye and Ear.