Dana Elcar is now legally blind due to his 30-year battle with glaucoma--high pressure in the eyeball that can damage the optic nerve.
This season on ABC's "MacGyver," Elcar's character of Pete Thornton also has glaucoma. On Monday night's episode, Thornton undergoes a trabeculectomy, an operation to drain the fluid build-up in his eyes.
Steve Downing, the executive producer of "MacGyver," asked Elcar if he could incorporate his glaucoma into the series. It's been a cathartic experience for the actor.
"I was allowed to say things in this program that were very personal to me and that I had difficulty saying in my life to my friends," Elcar says. "I got a lot off my chest. I found that I didn't have to stop working. I could keep going as an actor, as a person, do my job and be successful at it and be able to take care of myself and not be totally dependent."
Being dependent on others has been tough for Elcar. "We are dependent on people all of our lives, but we don't quite admit it. When something like this happens you really have to deal with it. There has to be an acceptance of (dependency) and I am going through that process now. "
Because he is legally blind, Elcar can't read normal print or drive. "Unfortunately, I also had not just glaucoma but a problem where hemorrhages occurred on both of my retinas. My little bit of good vision that was left has been impaired as well. "
His "MacGyver" scripts are now read to him. "I don't find that a great difficulty because I am much in the habit of learning lines (through) the process of having someone read a script to me three or four times and then cue me several times. . . . I seem to be able to do it."
Since the glaucoma story line was introduced this season, Elcar has received hundreds of letters of support from glaucoma sufferers. "It has been very, very good for me in my recovery," he says.