Personal Story: Pat Rospenda

"This disease must be conquered. I am taking its cure as a personal challenge." — Pat Rospenda

Seventy-year-old Pat Rospenda has perfect eyesight. She counts this as a blessing every day. As a professional artist, she relies on her vision to create her vibrant paintings.

When her granddaughter, Brianna, decided to follow in her footsteps and study art in college, Pat was thrilled—but also worried. Not because Brianna wouldn’t be good enough, but because Brianna has glaucoma.

“I want her to live her dream,” Pat says. “But what if she doesn’t get that chance?”

As you probably know, glaucoma doesn’t affect just the person with the disease; it affects the entire family. When a loved one is struck with glaucoma, family members struggle with fear, worry and frustration. What can they do to help? Pat went through the same range of emotions—but one day she decided to take action and made a leadership gift to support Glaucoma Research Foundation. As a member of the Catalyst Circle, Pat joins a dedicated group of donors who contribute $1,000 or more annually.

At a checkup a few years ago, doctors discovered that Brianna’s eye pressure was extremely high and recommended surgery be performed right away in order to preserve her vision. That evening she was rushed to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix for treatment. If they couldn’t find a surgeon fast, by morning, Brianna would lose vision in her eye. That’s when Dr. Dave Patel rushed in the door.

“He was wonderful,” says Pat. “He saved her sight. Afterwards, when we asked him how we could help, he told us about Glaucoma Research Foundation.”

Pat has pledged her financial support to Glaucoma Research Foundation and will also be donating her paintings for our Annual Gala’s silent auction to support innovative research programs. She’s doing everything she can to advance our groundbreaking work. She’s looking forward to clinical human trials starting soon testing promising new treatments. “Catalyst for a Cure is doing wonderful things,” she says. “We are all very hopeful.”

Today, Brianna is in her third year at the University of Arizona working toward a Bachelor of Fine Art in two-dimensional studio art. Her dream is to attain a Master’s degree in conservation or restoration in order to preserve beauty for future generations to see. “She’s a very strong girl,” Pat says. When she speaks of Brianna, her voice waivers. “But we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.”

At the moment, Brianna’s condition is stable. Last year she underwent a second surgery on her other eye with Dr. Patel at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale.

Pat is determined to help her granddaughter realize her goals: “This disease must be conquered. I am taking its cure as a personal challenge as it so deeply affects those dearest to me.” Pat added, “Brianna is so selfless. She hopes a cure will come soon—if not for her then for others.”

Families touched by glaucoma share a common bond. They want their loved ones to get better. But the disease is unpredictable and sometimes they feel helpless. That’s why many families turn to Glaucoma Research Foundation. We are making progress toward new therapies to preserve sight and finding a cure. And the support of mothers, fathers, and grandparents everywhere are the reason why. “If I could move mountains, I would move mountains,” Pat says. “As a lay person, this is the best I can do.”

“Pat’s incredible passion and determination to help her granddaughter inspires all of us at Glaucoma Research Foundation,” says Executive Director of Development, Nancy Graydon. “We are so grateful for Pat’s generous support and willingness to help. We know that research is the only way to discover new treatments and a cure.” Nancy added, “Thanks to the dedication of our researchers and the continued investment from donors like Pat, we know we will find the answers. We simply have to.”

Please join Pat and become a member of the Catalyst Circle.


First posted on June 21, 2016; Reviewed on April 28, 2022