s of sight was impetus
k Park family's move t
Special to the Jewish News
eople have all kinds of reasons for immigrat-
ing to Israel. Going blind usually isn't one of
For Jeffrey Bell, however, losing his vision
to Leber's optic atrophy was the impetus to bring his
family on a long-dreamed aliyah to the Jewish home-
Bell, 40, and his wife, Lisa, are native Detroiters who
married and raised their family of five children in Oak
Park. They have since had a sixth child, a sabra daugh-
ter, born in Israel two years ago — five months after •
they made their move.
While living in Oak Park, Bell worked as a retail resi-
dential mortgage broker, and Lisa ran a pre-nursery
playgroup. Then, in November 1998, Bell noticed a
white spot in the center of vision in his left eye. Fearing
a stroke, he went to a doctor right away. There was no
stroke, but he was referred to a retinal specialist.
"I was in denial," Bell says, "so I didn't go."
By January 1999, he couldn't see out of the eye.
After an inconclusive three-hour appointment with a
retinal specialist, Bell was referred to Dr. Barry Skarf, an
optic nerve specialist with the Henry Ford Health
A special blood test confirmed Dr. Skarf's diagnosis
of Leber's optic atrophy, a rare genetic disease that
occurs once in a million in the general population.
Vision loss is permanent with Leber's.
Though understandably devastated by the news, Bell
says he was relieved to learn the affliction is passed on
only through the mother, so his children could not pos-
BLIND AMBITION on page 40