Our referral program to support charity giving is near and dear to RGS owner Nate Richards.

Read Nate’s story below and see why RGS will give $20.00 for each referral, on behalf of the Referrer / Referred, to a wonderful international charity – Orbis (Website here). This organization has a 4 out of 4 star rating, and are extremely financially sound. Read their 96% rating here.

RGS is a monthly supporter of Orbis, who’s mission it is to eliminate avoidable blindness in developing countries. An international network of medical institutions and doctors endeavor to provide medicine and treatment to those in need. The referral donation will be given to Orbis immediately after the first month tuition is processed.

Why does RGS support Orbis? Here is a brief summary of my story…

As a young child, I genetically inherited Junior Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) in my knees, and the inflammation in my body also effected my eyes, causing Uveitis (an inflammatory condition of the eye) and Glaucoma. I was in kindergarten or 1st grade. My eyes were extremely red, painful, and I was having trouble reading the board at school. My mom took me to a local optometrist, and the poor guy spent the better part of 2 hours trying to see inside my eye, in a slight state of panic at what he was seeing (or not seeing). Turns out – I had cataracts in both eyes (especially severe in the left eye), and he could not see past them to assess my eyes. My left retina was totally cooked from the inflammation, and there were several other factors at play with my cornea, lens, scar tissue around my iris (causing my pupils to not dilate in the dark, or constrict in the light), etc etc. So, we were referred to Scheie Eye Institute in Philadelphia, where a small group of ophthalmologists began working together to help me. This is where I met the man who would stick with me for 25 years, and change my life forever – Dr. Stephen Orlin. 

Dr. Orlin

For the next few years, I was at Scheie with my mom on an almost weekly basis, trying various eye drops, pills, treatments, getting lasers shot into my eye to poke tiny holes to relieve the fluid pressure, and many other procedures. When I was in 3rd grade, Dr. Orlin operated on my left eye and removed the cataract-ridden lens of my eye to prevent any further damage that could result of the situation.

OK let’s make the next part quick…

Flash forward a few years – the JRA in the knees are getting worse, and I had a few arthritic fluid extractions procedures, Ouch, I must say. Eyes getting worse. More painful. Sight decreasing. Start slipping in school. Etc.

High School and college – the right eye (good eye) starts losing more vision. In addition to all of the eye drops, I start taking oral Prednisone (I blew up like a blowfish), which goes on for nine (9) straight years. Also include methotrexate and a few others I really can’t remember the names. Still on a variety of eye drops – Predforte later changed to Durosol for the uveitis / inflammation. Trusopt, Cosopt, and a few others for the rising pressure from Glaucoma (the fear being the “cupping” from the pressure on to the optical nerve, which causes decreased vision or blindness). Then a cornea band keratopathy procedure (calcium deposits on the cornea). Then a hypoparathyroid removal procedure due to side effects from the Prednisone, as well as early onset of osteoporosis from the Pred (because my endocrine system was hoarding calcium, keeping it from my lower spine and hip bones, also causing kidney stones on a few painful occasions) BUT the Pred is saving my vision. So, I have no choice but to continue and treat the side effects.

All this time, no driver’s license. Still getting rides from parents, significant other, siblings, etc. That was a big bummer for me as a budding young man, for sure.

2008 – My vision in my remaining good eye getting so bad I can barely read what is in front of me. I’m memorizing orchestral music for my high school music director job because I couldn’t see the notations, I get help from another kind teacher at my school to enter my grades into the computer, and I can barely tell who people are unless they are within a reasonable vicinity. Measured at about 20 / 200 (yup, two hundred – that means that what someone can see at 200 feet away, I’d have to move up and stand at 20 feet – a difference of 180 feet of vision loss!).

Glaucoma tube implant surgery inside the right eye to prevent further damage. Out of work for a couple of months because I couldn’t see out of my blind eye, and the patches and medications in the operated eye meant I was blind for a while. A surreal experience.

2010 – Finally, after over 20 years of sticking with me, week-in-week-out, hundreds of visits and who knows how many hours of work later, my docs at Scheie say we can go ahead with a lens implant surgery in my right eye. This will remove the cataract and damaged lens, and hopefully restore my sight in that eye. Risky and not a good % of complete success at this point, but there’s no other good option. I go in super early morning for a few hours of surgery. Come home late that afternoon, and remove the bandage to put in drops and WOOOWWW the world exploded in front of me with colors, straight lines (not blurry!), clear shapes, I can see all the way across the room – and even out the window clearly! I see my son Nathan clearly for the first time. That. Was. Overwhelming. The quality of my life improves a thousand-fold immediately. My vision goes from 20 / 200 to 20 / 30 in one day.

At my next visit a few days later, Dr. Orlin is visibly elated, stating that the results, in his opinion, were miraculous. Now, Dr. Orlin is a very stoic and calm man. So, coming from him, this is a huuugggeee deal. Trying to hold back tears, I give Dr. Orlin a gift card to a restaurant and a card – that’s all I could think to do at that moment. How do you repay someone who has just handed your life back to you in a single day?

I go on to improve at work, continue growing Richards Guitar Studio and Richards Rock Academy (which RRA NEVER would have happened without my eyesight improving and me finally get a driver’s license at the age of 30 – the mobility allowed me the opportunity to grow the academy).

The fact is this – if I didn’t live in the United States, and didn’t have the fortunate childhood of living in a household with my loving and supportive parents bringing in an income and benefits, I would be blind today. Blind. Eyes completely destroyed by inflammation, fluid pressure, nerve damage, etc. AND – Richards Rock Academy (and likely Richards Guitar Studio as a whole business), may not even exist.

This is why I chose to donate our referral program proceeds to Orbis. To give the gift of sight to a child, or event adults, who live in less-fortunate circumstances as I had the privilege to enjoy. The luxury of having a team of doctors work together for 25 years to restore my sight – the only thing I can do now is continue to support Orbis in their life-changing work and hope someone less fortunate can have a similar opportunity.

Who knows? Maybe a recipient will go on to create another great business. Or take care of their family. Or do something extraordinary. But one thing is absolutely 100% certain – their quality of life will be impacted beyond any measure we can imagine.

Nate Richards, Owner