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Perseverance, Persistence: A Boston Marathon Story

Patient Stories

Today, Will McNamara lines up for his 9th Boston Marathon as part of Team Eye and Ear, raising funds for research driven to bring his sight back.

In 2006, Will McNamara was paralyzed from the chest down in a biking accident in Vail, Colorado. During surgery, he suffered a stroke to the optic nerve, which left him legally blind.

What was intended to have been a beautiful spring bike ride, ended with a life-altering accident.

Will was working against all odds, but he wasn’t ready to give up. He underwent a vigorous four-month-long rehabilitation treatment at Craig Hospital in Colorado. When he was finished, he was able to stand and move about on his own. He recalls taking those steps to walk out the door on his own for the first time.

“It was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life, but I could never enjoy it, because I still couldn’t see.”

A drive to restore vision

Will and Dr. Joseph Rizzo
Will McNamara, with his physician at Mass. Eye and Ear, Dr. Joseph Rizzo. Dr. Rizzo joined Will in running the Boston Marathon with Team Eye and Ear in 2011.

Will’s quest to get his vision back led him home to Boston, where he came under the care of neuro-ophthalmologist Dr. Joseph Rizzo at Massachusetts Eye and Ear.

In the years since his accident, Will has become a full-fledged ambassador for the hospital and ongoing research to cure blindness. At this time, there are no treatments available to bring Will’s sight back, but Dr. Rizzo is confident that research to help him see again will advance during Will’s lifetime. That one message gave Will a glimpse of hope, and from that day forward, he has become quite a familiar face at Mass. Eye and Ear.

Will’s passion and efforts to help our researchers find a cure for blindness have touched just about every corner of the hospital. Will and his Newfoundland, Riva, venture through the hospital floors to visit patients, providing pet therapy and smiles to those who are undergoing treatments at Mass. Eye and Ear. Will is also involved in the hospital’s partnership with Project SEARCH, an initiative that provides young adults with developmental and cognitive disabilities with internships at Mass. Eye and Ear. He is a helpful mentor and a great resource for the student interns.

Running on

One of Will’s most cherished projects at Mass. Eye and Ear is his involvement with Team Eye and Ear. A veteran of Team Eye and Ear, he returns to the Boston Marathon starting line today to run his 9th race in support of Mass. Eye and Ear.

Will and Alexis at the Boston Marathon
In 2016, Will was joined by his wife Alexis in running his 8th Boston Marathon.

As it has become his life’s mission, he runs this year with the hope that, one day, researchers at Mass. Eye and Ear will help restore his vision. Without this support, research toward curing blindness will not progress as quickly.

“Research takes perseverance and persistence,” he says; “marathons also take perseverance and persistence.”

2 Comments

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  1. Deborah McNamara

    Thanks for doing this article on Will, he really does have confidence that one day he will see.
    He says he will run for MEEI until he does!

    • Suzanne Day

      Thank you, Deb! We are so grateful to Will for his dedication and generosity to Mass. Eye and Ear.