What is Uveitis?
In layman’s terms, uveitis is inflammation of the uvea—the middle section of the eye. The third-leading cause of blindness among girls in the US, uveitis is rare and incurable, but with early detection it can be treated. Because there are no physical symptoms, it goes unnoticed by the patient until their vision is impaired.

Jay Jay French’s daughter, Samantha, now 17, was diagnosed at age 6 during what her father describes as “a very routine, rudimentary eye exam at school.” Further examination was recommended, which led the family to the Massachusetts Eye Research and Surgery Institution in Cambridge, where Samantha came under the care of Dr. Stephen Foster. “MERSI specializes in inflammatory diseases, and Dr. Foster is the leading specialist,” says French.

Uveitis is often associated with other medical conditions, including infection, trauma, and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis—and particularly juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. In patients with the disease, the immune system attacks what it mistakenly perceives as foreign bodies, resulting in severe inflammation that must be treated with pain medication, steroids, and, in extreme cases, potentially dangerous drugs. “Behind the uvea lie hundreds of thousands of capillaries, the smallest capillaries in the body,” says French. “If uveitis is not caught quickly, the immune system kills the lens and causes glaucoma and blindness. You can hold it back, and in some cases it goes away for reasons that doctors cannot understand.”

According to French, who has immersed himself in learning about the disease, little is known about uveitis. “It’s not a ‘sexy’ disease with hundreds of millions of dollars in research. Lack of detection adds to our country’s medical costs. As the parent of a child with a chronic disease, I know enough to explain to people what they need to do. I also know enough to tell them that early detection is the key. If treated early, chances are that a person will have normal sight for the rest of their life. Samantha is still in treatment and has preserved her eyesight, but had the cellular damage not been diagnosed, she could have been blind by now.”

For more information on uveitis, visit uveitis.org, uveitis.net, and the Massachusetts Eye Research and Surgery Institution at mersi.us.

Gibson Custom Shop SG (LEFT) – “I worked with Jay Jay on three guitars,” says Gibson’s Steve Christmas, “the Les Paul Standard, the SG Standard Reissue based on a 1962, and a ’63 ES-335 Block Reissue. All three were built in the Gibson Custom Shop by our Pro Shop luthiers. All three have a slim-taper neck and are standard production models with the Pinkburst finish—which has never been duplicated on any other models in the Custom Shop.” Marshall 1959 Super Lead Reissue and 1960A 4x12 (CENTER) – “Marshall has been my company exclusively for 35 years,” says French. “When I told them what I wanted, they said, ‘You’re family. We’ll do whatever it takes.’” Orange Rocker 30 (RIGHT) – The class A, 30-watt Rocker features two EL34-driven channels, a Celestion Vintage 30 speaker, and grill cloth screen-printed by Jeron Moe at Eloquent Creative. “I spoke to Alex Auxier from Orange Amps at NAMM,” says French. “One day he called me and said, ‘What’s the name of that disease again? My best friend’s girlfriend has it. We want to be involved.’”