Nino Pesce, 77, a former Wills Eye Ophthalmic assistant for Dr. Tasman and a consultant for a contact lens company, first experienced vision problems in the summer of 1988. During the next 11 years, Pesce would gradually lose his eyesight to a combination of Macular Degeneration and Diabetic Retinopathy.
In 1991, Dr. Jack Jeffers, former Director of Medical Education now deceased, approached Nino about giving a lecture to first-year residents about issues and experiences in the daily lives of the visually impaired.
“Dr. Jeffers wanted to humble them, and to make them understand what a blind person’s life is like,” Nino recalled. The next year, Nino was invited by Dr. Ed Jaeger to address 250 first-year students of Thomas Jefferson University’s School of Medicine. Pesce continues to give both lectures and receives a “top rating” from the students each year.
Pesce usually is accompanied by a seeing-eye dog, and will soon have a new four-footed companion, since, Vera, his sixth and most recent was "retired" a short while ago. Shadow, his first, who saved his life in 1992 by nudging him aside from an oncoming vehicle, is his favorite. Pesce’s dogs are acquired through a couple of training organizations—the Guiding Eyes for the Blind and the Guide Dog Foundation—that matches dogs with owners.
There are 12 such training schools in the USA, says Pesce, also noting, “that it’s the dog who picks the owner. The dog must feel comfortable [with the perspective owner] and it’s easy to tell when a suitable match is made.”
In addition to lecturing, Pesce works at a Giant Supermarket, where he assists with bagging and represents the company in the community. Pesce also works for The Travel Authority, where he “contacts travelers by phone after their trips to make sure everything went well.”
In the Fall, Pesce, says, he will face another challenge, but one he’s looking forward to and very excited about. “He and his wife, of 11 years, Betty, will be taking a trip to upstate New York and vacationing at Finger Lakes.” photos: roger barone/WILLS EYE HOSPITAL