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Panorama City : Ailing Youth’s Photos Belie Near-Blindness

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In the atrium of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Panorama City on Friday afternoon, six photographs were unveiled that should not exist, at least not according to a doctor’s prognosis for the photographer who created them, Nathan Neser.

Four years ago, doctors predicted that Nathan, now 16, would die within a year.

Just as remarkable is the fact that Nathan is visually impaired.

“Let’s hope we continue to be wrong,” said Dr. John H. Fuerth, who has treated the teen-ager almost since birth.

The pictures unveiled before a gathering of hospital staff, family and supporters, were all taken by Nathan, who has demonstrated an unusual talent as a photographer.

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The pictures--of nature, a table, a chair and flowers--are to be permanently displayed in the heavily traveled area of the hospital.

Nathan was born with the fatal blood disease aplastic anemia. A bone-marrow transplant done to combat the disease when Nathan was 2 led to a condition called graft versus host, in which the new bone marrow rejected his body. That led to problems with his immune system and eventually to pulmonary fibrosis and partial blindness.

“He has been remarkably stable for the past few years,” said Fuerth, who recently retired, but still occasionally visits the teen-ager.

Fuerth said that during checkups, Nathan would bring in pictures he had taken and the two would talk about their common hobby of photography.

Nathan was introduced to photography about 4 years ago after his mother, Doreen Neser, a children’s librarian in Thousand Oaks, met Winifred Meiser, founder of a group called “Through Children’s Eyes,” which teaches children about photography and performing arts.

Using donated film and a camera supplied by the group, Nathan began taking pictures while on outings with his parents.

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“By the second roll of film, we could see he had talent,” said his mother, who with Nathan’s father, Gerard Neser, unveiled one of the sets of pictures for the hospital.

“I adore his work,” Meiser said. “I’ve been really impressed by the fact that he has such a mature eye.”

As part of the unveiling ceremony, Nathan was given a new 35-millimeter, single-lens reflex camera and telephoto lens. “We will be looking forward to the masterpieces you will be creating with this,” said David Potyk, hospital medical director.

Linda Cunningham, bereavement director for the hospital, said the idea to place Nathan’s pictures in the hospital materialized only a month ago, and came together quickly. “Everybody wanted to get involved,” she said.

Nathan seemed to accept the praise for his artwork like a pro. “I’m glad to give something back to the hospital that has given me back so much,” he said.

“If he was not in that wheelchair, he’d be using a white cane, his vision is so poor,” said Fuerth, explaining the importance of Nathan’s pictures. “It shows you can see with more than your eyes.”

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