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Losing Sight Creates a Vision

A mother donates a portion of the proceeds from her jewelry business to Mass. Eye and Ear for research after her son suffered a traumatic eye injury.

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Max Eckstein

Max Eckstein was at work when a bungee cord hit him in the eye. The injury sent Max, then 23, to the Emergency Room, where he needed an immediate trabeculectomy, a surgical procedure to reduce the pressure in his eye. A couple of months later, he needed cataract surgery, and for the next year, he struggled with the pressure in his eye. Max ended up with a macular pucker, scar tissue on the macula, which is located in the middle of the retina and helps with the central vision that allows us to see details. A macular pucker can cause vision damage, as it did for Max.

“Every complication happened that could have happened,” Max’s mother, Jamie Eckstein, said.

There is currently no technology available to repair this kind of injury and restore Max’s sight. But Jamie became determined to contribute to research that might lead to a cure.

Around the time of Max’s 2013 injury, she had started a business selling jewelry — some she made herself — and she decided to donate a portion of the proceeds to fund research on injuries like Max’s. And so, the Eye Candy Project was founded.

The Eye Candy Project

Max's mother, Jamie, launched the Eye Candy Project to raise awareness for traumatic eye injuries.
Max’s mother, Jamie, launched the Eye Candy Project to raise awareness for traumatic eye injuries.

Jamie holds jewelry trunk shows at businesses, fundraisers and individual homes, where she sells the Eye Candy jewelry and shares Max’s story—in addition to raising funds, the Eye Candy Project aims to raise awareness about traumatic eye injuries.

Recently, some of the businesses that have hosted Eye Candy trunk shows have been so inspired that they have chosen to donate a portion of their proceeds to the Eye Candy Project as well.

“Everyone who reads Max’s story sympathizes,” Jamie said. “They want to learn more, and they want to help.”

Although Max was treated in New Jersey, where both he and Jamie live, the Eye Candy Project funds are being donated to Mass. Eye and Ear for research. Vision researchers at Mass. Eye and Ear, including Evangelos Gragoudas, M.D., and Demetrios Vavvas, M.D., Ph.D., of Mass. Eye and Ear’s Retina Service, are conducting research on regenerating photoreceptors, research that could help find a cure for Max.

Jamie and Max had corresponded with Dr. Gragoudas during Max’s treatment following his injury, and they later learned that Max’s retinal specialist in New Jersey had trained under Dr. Gragoudas. This coincidence combined with the research’s potential to help Max and others with similar conditions led Jamie to decide that Mass. Eye and Ear was the best place to send donations.

“The stars were aligning,” she said. “I really liked the idea of giving back, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.”

While Max is still waiting for a cure, he and Jamie are feeling positive.

“It has been a long and stressful recovery, but he’s doing great,” Jamie said. “We decided that we have to move forward.”

“At first, I was in shock and could not believe that I was not going to get my vision back,” Max said. “But I have adjusted to life with my new vision. It has become my new normal.”

Jamie hopes to continue the Eye Candy Project indefinitely and envisions supporting new causes once a cure for Max’s condition is found.

“My mom started the Eye Candy Project after my injury to fund research for a cure that would help so many people,” Max wrote. “My mom does not stop until she gets what she wants, so I am hoping a cure is in the near future.”

If you would like to host a trunk show to benefit the Eye Candy Project or are interested in more information, visit http://www.theeyecandyproject.com/.

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