Published: Feb. 10, 2006
Updated: Mar. 21, 2011
I am 67 years old. I am a retired registered nurse with an independent life. I love to drive, to read, to play piano every Sunday at the same church where my mother played. I adore spending time with my husband of over 40 years. Four years ago, I began losing my vision and my life was taken away from me. I couldn’t read; I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t even see my husband’s face.
As her lines of vision deteriorated, Jean first thought that she might have cataracts. Her local ophthalmologist knew it was something far more serious and immediately referred her to the Duke Eye Center.
At Duke, she was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in her left eye, the leading cause of central vision loss for Americans over the age of 55. While the peripheral vision remains intact, the sharp central focus, which allows people to recognize loved ones, tell time, and watch TV, disappears. AMD has no cure, and researchers are working to find a root cause.
For Jean, laser treatment was effective in staying the problem but did not bring back the left eye’s lost vision. In 2003, she began having problems with her right eye.
“I had to give up playing piano during church service. I had to stop doing everything that I loved to do,” Jean says.
She returned to Duke for further treatment. This time, Jean was eligible for Macular Translocation 360 (MT360), a relatively new surgical procedure pioneered, performed, and perfected by a team of Duke ophthalmologists including Cynthia Toth, MD.
“I was just ecstatic when I heard that Dr. Toth would consider me for the surgery. I had nothing to lose. When it comes to your eyesight, you really have no choice. If anything could help, I was going to do it. I wasn’t even that nervous; I had to think positively,” says Jean.
“My grandmother had AMD during my fellowship years, and it was devastating,” says Dr. Toth. “The good news is that for people in the early stages of AMD, we can now provide more options. We won’t bypass non-surgical treatment, but if someone is at the endpoint, MT360 allows us to say, ‘There’s one more thing we can try.’”
Jean underwent the three-part surgery over the course of nine months, but she saw changes even after the first portion.
“There was significant improvement immediately after the first surgery, but it took about a year to experience the full results,” says Jean. “When Dr. Toth said ‘You can drive,’ that was the happiest moment of my life.”
Today, as a result of her successful treatment, Jean’s vision has improved from 20/700 to 20/40. The numbers tell the story of a woman who has found her freedom returned.
“It was a pure miracle. It totally changed my life. I have my independence back. Now I can do everything. I’m back to playing piano. I can even read large-print books with my reading glasses from the Dollar Tree.”
To make an appointment with a Duke physician, call 888-ASK-DUKE (888-275-3853).
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Emmett Tilley, recipient of a total hip replacement to relieve debilitating joint pain
A Healthy Child … More Precious than Gold
Lise Noble, mother of a newborn treated in Durham Regional Hospital’s intensive care nursery