Paul and Jan Rachow, founders of the Frogtown Support Group
Paul (Rocky) and Jan Rachow, founders and facilitators of the Frogtown Low Vision Support Group

The Frogtown Low Vision Support Group was born over 40 years ago, through friendships and circumstances.

Paul (Rocky) Rachow, his wife Jan, and their friends Bob and Carolyn Koch and Ron and Shirley Thompson forged friendships while living in the same neighborhood. Their children grew up and played together and they, as parents, played cards and shared their lives with each other.

At one point in time, Jan and Rocky moved out of the neighborhood, but in the early 1990s, they moved back. They all kept in touch during that time and eventually resumed their favorite pastime of playing cards at their respective homes every month.

Rocky’s Retinal Detachment

In 2004, the first of a series of life-changing tragedies struck. Rocky went through three retinal detachment surgeries, the last one being silicone oil implanted in his right eye to hold the retina in place. At that time, his retinal specialist who did the surgeries told him the silicone oil would have to be taken out within a year to prevent damage to the cornea.

During childhood, Rocky had injured his left eye and had very limited sight in that eye. The best he could read was the big E on the eye chart, meaning legal blindness. Now his good eye was also in jeopardy. After a time, he became acquainted with the Sight Center of Northwest Ohio, which helped him obtain adapted devices and advice on how to adjust to a new life of low vision.

The silicone oil had been in for over a year and Rocky’s sight was failing to almost total blindness. His retinal doctor performed many tests but could not find anything wrong. He said he couldn’t remove the oil, even though he had said previously that it couldn’t remain in longer than a year. Rocky was devastated. He even contemplated suicide.

Looking for Support

Rocky tried to find a support group where he could vent his anger and talk about his fears, but none was to be found. Through the Sight Center, he did meet totally blind individuals who were living useful and happy lives. He didn’t feel connected to these people, however, and felt he needed something more. He started depending on his friends more and more, and at that time they began calling themselves “the Frogtown Group,” which was their hometown’s onetime nickname.

A Life-Changing Doctor and Surgery

In 2007, another member of the group developed macular degeneration. She was seeing Doctor J. Gregory Rosenthal and suggested that Rocky see him for a second opinion. Rocky will be forever thankful to Shirley as he felt an immediate connection to Dr. Rosenthal. He really cared! After the tests were finished, the first words out of his mouth were: “Why is the silicone oil still in? It is leaking.” Because it was leaking, it was also destroying the cornea which gave him the answer as to why his eyesight was getting worse.

The surgery by Dr. Rosenthal, in December 2007, was a success. It involved removal of the silicone oil and some repairs to the retina. Dr. Qais Farjo, a cornea specialist who was also at Vision Associates, did a partial cornea transplant a couple of months later.

The results of these two surgeries were amazing and to this day, Rocky’s retina is still stable. He is able, with the help of a magnifier, to read books, address envelopes, read four lines on the eye chart, and read correspondence. With ZoomText on the computer, he can communicate with others. The improvements were slow in coming, but they definitely helped improve his outlook on life.

Frogtown Begins

About the time of this diagnosis, a third member of the group, Carolyn, developed diabetic retinopathy and also began seeing Dr. Rosenthal. With three friends having serious vision problems, they unofficially started supporting each other and the name became “Frogtown Low Vision Support Group.” The big topic of the monthly card games was discussing treatments and giving encouragement. What made this so rewarding was that spouses were right there with them all the time, sharing their views and offering their support.

In April of 2009, Bonnie Shefdore of The Sight Center of Northwest Ohio invited six leaders to get involved in an eight-week low vision support group course concerning the problems that the visually impaired encounter. Upon completion of the course, which answered many of our questions, we agreed to expand upon that which we had unofficially started a long time ago.

Frogtown’s Public Debut

On June 2, 2009, Rocky and Jan moved the Frogtown Low Vision Support Group into the public arena within the Lucas County Library system:

We offer hope, laughter, friendship, and information to our group. We listen and let the vision impaired person, along with their spouses and caregivers, know that they are not alone. We offer a forum for the caregiver to express themselves as well as the person with the vision problem.

We offer education in the form of guest speakers, such as Dr. Rosenthal. We offer information relating to everyday living with articles or guest speakers demonstrating devices or organizations, such as the Lucas County Library, informing the vision impaired of the services offered through the public library system.

The Lucas County Library system, where the group holds monthly meetings, offers support for the cause. With their support, Frogtown is able to have guest speakers and serve coffee, snacks, and finger foods for the special October Feast. A product show at the library occurs in September, and in June Frogtown has a picnic. A highlight is the December Frogtown Christmas Party.

More about Frogtown

The most meaningful and poignant monthly meeting of the FrogTown Low Vision Support Group ever, was the Caregiver Appreciation Day. This event, recognizing the love, support, encouragement, and challenges of our caregivers, was the idea of member Barbara Servais. Members were instrumental in providing flowers, cookies, and snacks. The visually impaired members thanked their caregivers and there were many moist eyes in the room that day. It just can’t get any better than that!

Frogtown Support Group members

Frogtown Low Vision Support Group members

The group is very diverse in age and talent. We could never have envisioned what Frogtown has become. It did take a lot of time and work, with Jan making flyers and she and Rocky pounding the pavement, dropping off the flyers everywhere to spur interest in support of the group members.

We sincerely hope that this story will be an inspiration for others who are concerned with the well-being of the visually impaired and for all those who also are affected by a loved one’s vision loss. Rocky says, “There is no greater reward than watching someone come to our meetings with their head down and then, within a couple of months, watching their head held high with a smile on their face and a new appreciation of life.”

Founders and Facilitators
Paul (Rocky) and Jan Rachow

“Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”