San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

SDSU alum raises awareness for rare eye disease

Courtesy of Jeremy Poincenot

Jeremy Poincenot travels the country as a motivational speaker to inspire students, just as he did for his talk “Limitless Leadership” at the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union on Wednesday, Feb. 17.

He also competes in golf tournaments across the world and has been the subject of several TV shows, such as ABC’s “20/20” and MTV’s “True Life.”

He has accomplished all this while being legally blind.

Before fall 2008, Poincenot was a typical 19-year-old sophomore at San Diego State and a Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity member.

His world was rocked one day after walking on Campanile Walkway and having to squint his eyes to read the Open Air Theatre sign.

Poincenot did as any other college student would and called his mom for help.

His visit to the optometrist led to the conclusion that he could not read the eye chart on the wall with only his right eye opened.

Alarmed, his optometrist referred him to an eye specialist.

Even then, Poincenot remembers finding optimism in the situation.

“Maybe, I just have really bad vision and need really thick glasses,” he remembered thinking. “Those are really in right now. Martin Scorsese has been rocking the thick glasses for years!”

Unfortunately, the eye specialist was not as optimistic as Poincenot.

He believed he could possibly have a brain tumor, causing him to lose his vision.

He still had no answer after months of trial and error, misdiagnoses, doctor visits, hospital stays and hours of steroid and IV pumping, Poincenot still had no answer.

Finally he was diagnosed with Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy, an extremely rare, degenerative eye disease that is passed down maternally.

Poincenot’s world turned upside down as he began the grieving process. He tried to cope with not being able to drive, read or recognize the faces of his loved ones.

Poincenot admittedly suffered from depression for months. But with the help of his family and his fraternity brothers, Poincenot came back to SDSU the following semester.

Growing up, Poincenot was an avid athlete and a dedicated golfer. He was devastated at the thought of never playing golf again until his mother told him about the International Blind Golf Association.

Fast forward to August 2010 and Poincenot and his father won the World Blind Golf Championship as golfer and guide .

Poincenot and his fraternity brothers began a fundraiser in 2009 to raise awareness and funds for LHON research.

They founded Cycling Under Reduced Eyesight Ride, a tandem bike ride from Santa Barbara to San Diego.

The fundraiser has so far raised more than $175,000 for LHON research.

One memory Poincenot shared from his time at SDSU was the year after he lost his vision, when SDSU’s Greek Week announced its focus of philanthropy on LHON research.

The effort ended up raising $35,000.

“That was unbelievable,” he said. “I remember a bunch of my fraternity brothers came up to me to tell me that they voted for LHON research and I was almost in tears because I was so grateful and appreciative that everyone in the Greek community was going to raise money for LHON.”

The biggest thing Poincenot wanted SDSU students to take away from his talk last Wednesday at the student union was that everyone has the power to influence the lives of other people.

“We get so caught up in ourselves in college, we get so caught up in our popularity status, how cool we might look doing something, what we are doing Thursday, Friday, Saturday night,” he said. “But do we take the time to look at the people around us and offer to help them out, be there or lend a helping hand? Because that really can help and change people’s lives.”

Students attending Poincenot’s talk appreciated his message.

“Poincenot is not only an inspiration to those that endure LHON, he is an inspiration to us all,” communication junior Nikita Larson-Packer said. “As a member of an individualistic society, I am guilty of taking things for granted and under-appreciating what is great in my life. After listening to Poincenot’s story and witnessing how his condition has shaped his life, I am now conscious of what I have to be thankful for.”

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San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
SDSU alum raises awareness for rare eye disease