A Medford man who was facing blindness has a whole new perspective on life, thanks to the kindness of both friends and strangers who read about his plight and stepped forward to help.

A Medford man who was facing blindness has a whole new perspective on life, thanks to the kindness of both friends and strangers who read about his plight and stepped forward to help.

Marc Botello is able to work, drive, care for his aging mother and even play fetch with his dog, tasks that seemed unlikely just a few months ago.

Botello made headlines around Christmas last year when his boss, Bill Lambert, posted fliers at eight Christmas-tree lots he owns about Botello facing total blindness without cataract surgery.

Lambert owns Peco Pines, and Botello has been a familiar face at the tree lot on Stewart Avenue in Medford.

Botello's eyesight was failing and he needed to come up with $2,500 to have surgery or he was going to be out of work and unable to care for his aging mother and dog.

When Botello's story, accompanied by a picture of him and his border collie, Heidi, were featured in the Mail Tribune, cards and donations trickled in to various Peco Pines tree lots tallying nearly $2,000.

On top of that, three local eye doctors offered to donate varying levels of service and equipment to help restore Botello's vision. Medford eye doctor Philip Paden eventually performed the surgery that restored Botello to 20-30 vision.

Paden and his staff at Medical Eye Center on Medford's Barnett Road donated staff and equipment, while Laser and Surgical Eye Center donated a surgical room, and Alkon Corporation donated the replacement lens Botello needed to restore vision after surgery on his right eye.

While his left eye shows signs of beginning cataracts, and he'll need glasses for reading, Botello's vision is as good as any middle-aged man, Paden said.

"Everything turned out good enough that he doesn't really need glasses for distance vision," Paden said. After cataract surgery some people have really good distance vision and wind up needing a reading correction, just like most people who are nearing 50 years old."

"All in all, it's been awesome, just the best thing to happen to me," said Botello, who used the cash donations to cover his bills while he recovered and to provide needed vet care for Heidi. "Those people at Paden Eye Care are absolutely wonderful people, and I just want to say how much I appreciate everybody stepping out and taking care of one of their own. It's made a big difference in my life."

With the slump in the economy, work has been slow, but Botello said facing blindness changed his view on what hard times really are.

"I'm piecing together odds and ends like everyone else to keep myself afloat. I just tell myself it could always be worse," he said.

"Yeah, times are hard right now, but I could be blind and not working."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.