Jesse Head photographed at Turner Lake Complex in Covington looking up these days and very much in gratitude.
COVINGTON -- A man's character is often revealed in the way he handles adversity. When Jesse Head was diagnosed with a rare eye disease, he decided he would not be defeated.
"You've got to make the best of what you've got," the 18-year-old Alcovy High School junior said. "I know that no matter what, God will never deal me anything I can't handle."
Head's trial started last year when he began to complain about a spot in his right eye. When it continued to grow, his mother, Carrie Hicks, took him to the pediatrician.
"The pediatrician seemed alarmed and told us to go to an eye doctor within the next week," Hicks said. "Me, being a mother, I panicked and made an appointment the next day at Pearl Vision in Conyers. The doctor there looked at his eye, and she looked panicked. She told us we needed to get to an optician soon."
Hicks took her son to see a specialist at Northside Hospital, who diagnosed Head with the rare disease.
"He injected dye in a vein and took pictures and as he examined the pictures, he told me I had Coats' disease that can cause you to go blind," Head said. "My mom had tears going down her face, and I was trying to be strong, but then I started crying."
Coats' disease, which occurs most often in males, is caused by an abnormal development in the blood vessels behind the retina. According to CoatsDisease.org, the retinal capillaries break open, causing fluid to leak into the back of eye. The leakage causes the retina to swell, and can cause partial or complete detachment of the retina.
Head said the ride back home to Covington was very difficult, and it was hard when he told his family. After grappling with his new reality, Head said he made a decision.
"Taking it from a Christian point of view, I decided to do everything I did before, if not more to prove I can do it, to show that others can do it," he said.
Head said the disease is in both eyes, even though it's most severe in his right eye.
He has undergone two surgeries on his eye and is scheduled for a third in December.
He has virtually no vision in his right eye, but he has not let that slow him down.
Head's grades have remained strong and he plans to go to college, where he would like to major in business and computers, and one day get married.
Head is also a successful athlete. He played this season on the Alcovy High School football team. He had been a receiver, but now is a starter on special teams. Head is also on the school's varsity tennis team. He said it took some adjustment to get used to his impaired vision, but he has adapted well.
"Before this I was a pretty good football player. It set me back a little bit, but once I got a hold of it, I started doing as good as I had before," he said.
Head's mother said she is very proud of how her son has handled this disease.
"He is remarkable," Hicks said. "He has done very well with this. He said he was not going to be labeled as disabled and he was going to do everything he wanted to do."
Head said he hopes he can be an inspiration to others who are facing difficult circumstances.
"I would love to meet someone who has the disease," he said. "I would tell them they can do anything. ... You just do everything. Prove you can do it, even if you have disadvantages, you deal with it with courage."
With the support of his family, his girlfriend, Kelsey Upton, and her family, Head has much to be thankful for.
"I'm thankful that I have not lost vision in both my eyes, and I am very thankful for all the people around me," he said.
Hicks said her son has taught her a great lesson.
"People can keep on doing everything they want to do and overcome any obstacles in their way," she said. "We have had some serious financial problems, but when it comes down to it, your children are the most important thing."