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Chuck Hinman IJMA No. 169: Living with Macular Degeneration

It's Just Me Again. No. 169 Living with Macular Degeneration
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The next previous Chuck Hinman column, Chuck Hinman IJMA No. 116: The Flour Mill at Blue Rapids, Kansas

By Chuck Hinman

Up until seven years ago (2004), I was coasting along in retirement with the common age-related infirmities. You know, stuff like hearing loss, blood-pressure a little on the high side, worn out knees but not bad enough to be replaced. I did not have any big stuff like cancer or diabetes. My life-style did not change from pre-retirement days. I had no need for aspirin, etc. for discomforts. I didn't have aches and pains and I attribute running three quarters of the way around the world in my running days for my longevity. Certainly I am not discounting the grace of God and His interest in my goings and comings.

Then this "new kid on the block" barged in and messed up my life. He goes by his initials, AMD. Let me tell you what happened.

I was sitting on the toilet stool daydreaming as usual and just happened to notice that the shower door was not straight. It had "squiggles" up and down the edge of the door. My immediate reaction was not alarm; it was more like curiosity. I noticed these squiggles were only apparent when I used my right eye. When using both eyes, I was unable to discern this strange phenomenon. Then I observed it wasn't limited to the shower door, all doors had these wavy edges.I calmed my growing anxiety by deciding to mention it to Dr. Grisham at my next annual visit in a couple months. I didn't realize that I had become a victim of age-related macular degeneration (AMD for short).

Further, it was the "wet" variety. With that variety the fast-moving damage to the retina was irreversible. Waiting a couple of months before getting treatment contributed to my losing 100% of the central vision in that eye. In short time, I went from a decent, tolerable 20/30 corrected vision to a life-style altering 20/400 vision. The only letter I could read on the eye chat was the big E at the top and the only way I could see the big E was by turning my head and reading it with my peripheral vision which fortunately is never affected by dreadful AMD. It only attacks the macula part of the retina.

As you reach advanced years such as 60ish or more, the blood vessels in the retina of some people's eyes weaken and begin to seep minuscule amounts of blood. If laser treatment to "zap" the bleeding is not started immediately the blood already leaked becomes a stain affecting your central vision that allows you to "zoom in" and see the detail -- or the "good stuff." When that is messed up, there is no way to blot up or "white out": the blood stain. Laser treatment, wonderful as it is can stop further damage from the present attack but can do nothing about the damage already done. And just because one outbreak of bleeding wasn't complete in destroying 100 % of the central vision in that eye is no guarantee that the bleeding will not commence again until that retina is put "out of business." So you soon discover that AMD, although painless is relentless like some cancers.

Until I cane down with AMD, I had never heard of it. And now that I have it, I am constantly surprised how many of my fellow residents here at Tallgrass Estates are fellow victims. AMD is painless and victims often appear as in exceptional good health. But AMD belies the visual, life-altering problems they are experiencing. Unless a victim like me attempts to share with you what we are experiencing, you have no way of knowing.

But all is not gloom and doom at this point. The good Lord in creating our wonderful bodies gave us two eyes. Several years ago when my right eye was reduced to 20/400 vision, I still had my weaker eye, the left eye, and in time, I hardly missed my damaged eye.

There is a marvelously uplifting lesson in life that is unfolding as one after another of my body parts are wearing out. The lesson is that the human body and spirit are remarkably resilient and lend themselves well to overcoming adversities, one after another. Like beat and battered junk heaps in the demolition derby (of life), don't count anyone out of the race. For just at the moment you think the race is over for some, you see some black smoke and here they are back in the derby. VROOOM!

Two years ago my remaining useful eye succumbed to the bleeding hex and the resulting damage left me with a small corner of my retina that is not blood smeared. I have 20/200 vision in that eye and that put a definite crimp in my daily life.

Driving, of course was one of the early casualties. I can't read and that knocks out newspapers, magazines, letters, and greeting cards, Sunday School quarterlies, the Bible, TV, etc.

A big hole in my day to day life was created when I could no longer see music; I can not see the stops on my organ. It puts a damper on my bridge (card) playing when I have to screw my head to a position where I have a small window of precious central vision.

Fortunately this computer on which I enjoy writing my memories is equipped so that I can blow up the letters to a 72 font (about 1 inches high) and until the next attack of AMD comes along I will enjoy what I have and not fret over what I used to have.

AMD is life altering if you let it be. The trick is to not give an inch! Don't succumb to the easy way out and give up. I have to fight the moment by moment brain-set of "Oh, I'm blind. Haven't you heard? I can't do anything. Aren't I a pitiful mess?" Pity -- pity ad infinitum.

Another of the unpleasant things about AMD is the difficulty and embarrassment of recognizing people. I am a people-loving person and abhor giving the impression I have a chip on my shoulder when the problem is I am fearful of another mistaken identity. My good friend out at church, Bonnie Toalson, is one of a very few that fully understands AMD. She takes the pressure off me when she announces "Hi Chuck -- Bonnie here." Thank you Bonnie for understanding! - CHUCK HINMAN

This story was posted on 2011-10-02 03:13:46
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