Gustavo Renteria Jr. was at a wrestling competition in Houston during his freshman year when he noticed something was wrong with his vision.
The Pebble Hills High School student-athlete had had noticeable changes in his vision, and at this point he couldn’t tell the difference between the different colored mats where he was supposed to be battling his opponent.
“All of these thoughts started going through my head and I started to wonder how far my eyesight was going to go again,” Renteria said. “There was a lot of fear that my eyesight would deteriorate until I couldn’t see anything and things darkened.”
Upon his return home, Renteria and his family sought an answer as his condition worsened and he regularly lost sight in both eyes.
Renteria and her family were fortunate enough to face what seemed like an impossible hurdle when they found a local doctor at Texas Tech University who not only diagnosed Renteria with Leber’s disease or hereditary optic neuropathy. Leber, but was also aware of an ongoing treatment in Europe. The doctor requested permission and received approval from the Food and Drug Administration for Renteria to receive the drug here in the United States.
An uncle and cousin from Renteria’s family also suffered from the same disease but had never been treated for it and the family never imagined it happening or progressing as it had been in Renteria.
“Hearing what he had initially was devastating because we knew about it and what it could go into, so it was a big shock and a bit traumatic,” said Renteria’s father, Gustavo Renteria Sr. “From from that moment it became a journey for all of us to learn more, to understand it and to figure out how to be there for Gus in any capacity.
Knowledge of the medical condition and the innovative treatment he received in September 2020 has already started to reverse Renteria’s vision in just a few months.
“I was both scared and excited,” Renteria said of the treatment. “It was a relief to have this change of pace where my vision was improving instead of deteriorating. I had a lot more hope and a better outlook on what to enjoy in life now. “
Renteria said he was sure if he hadn’t been properly diagnosed and treated, his symptoms would have gradually worsened.
He said that before the treatment, he couldn’t differentiate the colors, read the chalkboard in class, or find something that he would drop without help. Now he can do all of these things and has even started driving again to get his learner’s license.
“This experience taught me to really appreciate the little things,” Renteria said. “We tend to take a lot of things for granted, like being able to see or being able to drive. “
Now, Renteria has been able to continue to excel in her athleticism, as well as her academics, with a GPA of 92.4. He is passionate about wrestling and was thrilled that he could continue to compete as his vision improved.
He recently won the varsity wrestling title in UIL District 1-6A and placed second at the Region 1-6A tournament, qualifying him for his first trip to the state. Then, he will compete in spring football as the starting nose guard for the Spartans.
Renteria said he was able to get through these difficult past years with the help and support of his teachers, coaches and teammates.
“My teachers have been very supportive of me,” Renteria said. “They often gave me more time to do my homework or gave me homework in large print. They were flexible in letting me change seats so I could see the board better or sit next to a friend who could help me.
Wrestling coach Carlos Paniagua said Renteria’s overall view of the situation had inspired him both for himself and for the team.
“We moved on from the question ‘Why was this happening to Gus? “To talk to him and understand exactly why it was Gus, because he could handle it,” Paniagua said. “Gus never lost his sight. He always knew he was going to get to where he is today.
Renteria said he decided to share his story to help others who may be struggling with their own circumstances realize that nothing is impossible and that you should never give up.
“You can choose to live with it, make the most of it and adapt, or just give up,” Renteria said. “I felt that if I kept pushing it would translate into a better life and it was up to me to make the most of what I have.”
Now Renteria, who is currently in her freshman year of high school, is hoping to secure a track and field scholarship to go to college and eventually join the Border Patrol.
As the proud Spartan of Pebble Hills, Renteria is living proof of the high school’s powerful motto “Spartans Rise Above”.