George Mendoza has inspired others throughout his whole life. He has been an athlete, an author, a motivational speaker, and more. Born in 1955 in New York City, Mendoza has described his life as an “evolution.” He was diagnosed with the rare ocular condition fundus flavimaculatus at age 15 and decided that he would inspire others with rare conditions, a goal that he has completed many times over.
About Fundus Flavimaculatus
Fundus flavimaculatus is a rare, genetic condition that is characterized by retinal flecks. Medical professionals are still learning about this condition, but they believe that the ABCA4 and PRPH2 genes are linked to onset, as is an accumulation of Vitamin A. They have compared it to Stargardt disease in that it sees the onset of symptoms during childhood, it leads to poor visual outcomes, and it progresses quickly. Symptoms include:
- Retinal flecks
- Loss of color vision
- Paracentral scotoma
- Loss of visual acuity
Doctors will diagnose this condition through a variety of tests: color testing, visual field testing, and electroretinography. After the correct diagnosis is obtained, there is unfortunately no treatment or cure for fundus flavimaculatus. Fortunately, there are a number of options being explored in various stages of research, including gene therapy, stem cell transplants, and medications to lower the amount of Vitamin A that has built up.
Being diagnosed with a rare, progressive condition and being told there’s no cure can be scary, especially when you’re only 15 years old. George has lost his central vision and only maintains partial peripheral vision. He describes what he sees as “kaleidoscope eyes,” meaning that he constantly watches bright, fiery, and colorful shapes that do not stop even when he lies down to go to bed.
George took all of this head on, never stopping to achieve his goals, one of which was running. In fact, he set the record for the fastest mile run by a blind athlete, finishing the run in just under four and a half minutes. As time passed, he retired from running and turned his focus elsewhere.
The next step for George was motivational speaking; he traveled to speak to young people and those living with disabilities, telling his story and aiming to inspire others. He also picked up a pen for the first time and began to write; he will actually see the result of this effort soon.
Journey of a Spirit Man is his debut novel and will be released in May. This book follows Michael Seymour, a boy who was on top of the world before everything he knows is changed. In college, he is diagnosed with a rare condition that has no cure, and his best friend passes away. The rest of the book focuses on his journey of self-discovery, something that George relates heavily to his own life.
His love for writing and art inspired him to help others find their passions. In 2013, he founded the Wise Tree Foundation. This organization promotes the arts for people with disabilities, who often face restrictions to access. Additionally, he has collaborated with Sight Savers of America and hopes to open an art museum in his home state of New Mexico that was created for people with disabilities.
Read more about George’s story here.