Thomas’ Story

Posted on 2016-08-17

The Cola Bottle Diagnostic Tool

By Pat Trotta

I was astounded when I found out about Know The Glow and how social media is saving lives through digital photography. Finally, we have something we can do to help children born with Retinoblastoma and other childhood eye diseases.

When I was born in July 1950, I had two older brothers: Tommy who was 3 and John Albert who was 2. Three months after I was born, Tommy was playing at his grandparents’ “Mom & Pop” grocery store. He loved to use an empty cola bottle as a periscope. He would put a bottle to his right eye and look into it only to swiftly change it to the left eye. Finally, someone asked him why he kept switching eyes and he said, “I can’t see.”

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Thomas “Tommy” Brannon

Thus began a year of turmoil for my parents. Our family physician swiftly referred them to Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati where Tommy was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma, and treatment included enucleation. There were not a lot of other treatment options in 1950. He died on December 24, 1951.

Ohio State University researcher Madge T. Macklin, M.D. heard about my brother’s case. She was a research associate in medicine with a special interest in medical genetics. She did a detailed “pedigree sheet” on each of my parents. She called every blood relative and asked about their medical history. She wrote a research paper on the subject in 1957. It is my understanding that the RB gene has now been identified, and I would like to think Dr. Macklin’s extensive research helped other children.

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Pictured: Pat (center), Thomas (right), and their mother.

I have been amazed through the years at the progress that has been made in fighting Retinoblastoma and other childhood cancers. The medications and procedures now available are drastically improved. Early detection is still a critical part of the success rate of these treatments. I hope that every family learns about what “The Glow” in flash photography can indicate. “The Glow” is the “cola bottle” for our current generation and, with awareness, can save many lives. Please help spread awareness so that every family will someday “Know The Glow!”