An Evening at the Boston Foundation for Sight

For many years, Boston Foundation for Sight has been one of the top sources of referrals for guests staying at Hospitality Homes. In some ways, it is an outlier when compared to our other top users: most are large hospitals and rehab clinics, while Boston Foundation for Sight (BFS) occupies about half of the second floor of an otherwise nondescript office building in Needham.

Recently, Hospitality Homes staff and hosts were given the opportunity to see what goes on firsthand in this remarkable facility. We were given a private, after-hours tour of the offices and attached laboratory by Anita Sperber, part of the BFS Development Team, and spoke with Dr. Perry Rosenthal, the founding president of the organization.

It immediately became clear what makes Boston Foundation for Sight unique, and why patients will often travel great distances to seek treatment there. Dr. Rosenthal is the inventor of the Scleral Lens, which can restore normal vision to people who have been unable to see due to certain problems with the cornea or severe eye dryness. Most patients come to BFS, Dr. Rosenthal explains, after being told elsewhere that there was nothing more that could be done for them.

The halls are adorned with success stories, as well as photos and letters from grateful patients across the country. The stories are dramatic and often emotional: there are the stories of a woman who went from being legally blind, using a cane and a guide dog, to becoming a professional photographer; a flight attendant who was able to return to work after years of failing vision; a soldier whose vision was restored for the first time after his tear ducts were destroyed by the heat of an explosion.

The facility includes many amenities to help patients feel comfortable. All waiting areas are equipped with dimmer switches to help those who are photosensitive. BFS staff spends close to a thousand dollars per week keeping the kitchen fully stocked, so that patients and their families do not have to venture out to eat in the downtime between appointments that are often scheduled for several times per day. In the back, a state-of-the-art laboratory manufactures the lenses for each patient. On average, the lab produces approximately 5 lenses for each patient before they are a perfect fit, although sometimes it takes as many as 15 or 20 trials to get the job done.

What is perhaps most remarkable about BFS, though, is their commitment to help everyone who can benefit from the treatment that they offer, regardless of ability to pay. According to Dr. Rosenthal, approximately 20 percent of BFS patients are treated for free. In addition to providing free treatment, BFS staff will go to great lengths to ensure that people from other parts of the country are able to get here. They will help arrange free flights for patients through the Patient Airlift Services or Angel Flights, and free housing, often through Hospitality Homes.

We feel fortunate that we are able to help so many patients who travel here for treatment at BFS. With BFS’s and Hospitality Homes’ shared commitment to help everyone regardless of income, many people have been able to have their lives forever changed by having their vision restored, when there otherwise would have been few options and little hope. As much as possible, we hope to continue helping these sorts of medical miracles occur by ensuring that people traveling to Boston can find affordable lodging.

Pictured below: Dorothy, a patient at Boston Foundation for Sight (left), and her Hospitality Homes host, Margaret (right).