By Art Holliday
St. Louis (KSDK) - A local man is raising money for stem cell surgery to restore his sight.
"You never know what's going to happen to you in life," said Terran Rome.
Sharing life lessons to middle school students at East Middle School in the Hazelwood School District, entrepreneur and motivational speaker Rome stood before 15 teenagers with quite a story to tell.
Rome is an Army veteran and a college graduate of the University of Missouri-St. Louis. But a rare disease meant he couldn't make out the words on his diploma.
"During my last semester of college, my vision started messing with me," said Rome. "I have clouded vision where I can make out the outskirts of this room, but I can't really see you."
Twenty years ago, Rome contracted Leber's Hereditary Optic Neuropathy.
"It's a genetic disorder in my family. I have an uncle who has the same disorder," said Rome.
The rare inherited disease causes severe loss of visual sharpness. Basic tasks like driving a car, reading, or recognizing faces becomes impossible. For years Rome waited for advances in medical technology.
"This time last year, I went on the computer and saw some people with the eye disease I have, and other eye diseases, were getting their sight back through stem cell surgery," said Rome.
Determined to have stem cell surgery, Rome is halfway to raising the $30,000 to travel to southeast China where Beike Biotechnologies is located. Beike specializes in stem cell science and treats a variety of serious medical conditions, including brain injury, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and optic nerve damage.
"I would love to be the trailblazer and make it happen for people and give other people an opportunity to gain more quality of life back," said Rome. "I had one or two doctors, they just didn't believe in the fact of stem cells. I had to look past them because if you don't believe it, there are a whole lot of people who are being successful with it and I want it."
If you would like to help Terran Rome raise money for his stem cell surgery, you can reach him at 314-337-1871 or email him at email@example.com.
Terran also has a YouTube video about his life.