During his 25-plus year career at Hal Leonard, LLC, a music publishing and distribution company, Rick Fuhry traveled the world as vice president of international sales. He traveled regularly throughout Southeast Asia, South America, South Africa, and the UAE. He’s helped to license foreign translations and form joint ventures so that musicians throughout the world could learn from the most popular method books and play from songbooks of their favorite artists.
Now that he’s retired, he still enjoys traveling, and also reading novels, playing his vintage guitars, and watching Formula One and football.
None of this would be possible without vision — vision that Fuhry has maintained, thanks in large part to the care he received throughout much of his life at the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Eye Institute.
Fuhry is hugely thankful for all the treatments and compassion he received from the doctors at the Eye Institute. But he also knows that not everyone shares his good fortune. So, he worked with leadership at the Eye Institute to establish a source of support for patients in financial need.
“My hope, by providing money for the fund that we established for medical assistance at the Eye Institute, is that people become aware of the fund and know that they can apply for this money,” Fuhry said. “My personal eye doctor, Dr. Catherine Thuruthumaly, told me that there were patients of hers that couldn’t afford eye drops [for glaucoma], even if it’s just a small co-pay of $10 or $20. They say it’s too much for them, so they weren’t taking their eyedrops as prescribed. That really shocked and concerned me.”
A patient of the Eye Institute for about 35 years, Fuhry started receiving care there after his original eye doctor retired. “The doctors there are totally dedicated,” he said.
His eye issues began as a child, when he was diagnosed with amblyopia, the medical term for lazy eye. In his late 20s, Fuhry was diagnosed with glaucoma, which is treated in large part with daily eye drops. He’s also had laser surgery and needling for the glaucoma and has been treated for astigmatisms, a detached retina, and extreme changes in eye pressure.
Glaucoma is a disease that usually has no symptoms in its initial stages. It happens when fluid inside the eye doesn’t drain properly and increases intraocular pressure. This increased pressure can damage the optic nerve, which can lead to blindness. The vision loss usually happens gradually, so people may not notice it until there’s significant, permanent vision loss. When the optic nerve is damaged, there is no way to repair it.
Retirement found Fuhry living comfortably. He decided he wanted to help people and since eye care is so important to him, he contacted the Eye Institute and asked how he could help.
He met with several doctors at the Eye Institute to discuss giving options. It was at this meeting that Thuruthumaly told him about patients not being able to afford eye drops for glaucoma.
“My bottom-line goal is to save vision,” Fuhry said. “This fund is in the early stages right now, but I would love to hear in two or three years that the fund has helped save the vision of someone, young or old. It’s gratifying being able to give money in hopes of saving vision.”
The fund Fuhry created meets his criteria for helping: He wanted the money he donated to have an immediate effect and he also wanted the application process to be simple.
“It breaks my heart to think of some people that may go through [glaucoma] and not understand how serious it is, and how it can rob you of eyesight slowly over time, with them not being aware of the importance of eye medication and regular appointments.”
“I feel fortunate to have some extra funds to be able to help others by contributing to their healthcare costs,” Fuhry added. “I chose the Eye Institute because I’ve been going there for many years, and I respect the doctors there. They do great work and I’m extremely grateful. The need is there to help people save their vision.”