Guest Author: Loretta Bluebosh
Okay, I have to come clean, before being diagnosed with Macular Degeneration, I already had experience dealing with chronic health issues. When I was 11 years old, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, and at that time it wasn’t called Crohn’s Disease and only adults had gotten it up to then. And then 20 years ago, I had to have a Colostomy due to complications from Crohn’s. So I already was of the mindset of always having to resort to a ‘Plan B’ whenever I wanted to or needed to do something. But I always found a way to make ‘it’ work.
This is what I did when I started as an entertainer and then when I switched to working in advertising, which I love. While successfully running a boutique advertising agency that concentrated on helping small businesses, I noticed there was something different with my sight. I could see okay, but something was different. I went to have my eyes examined and the eye doctor said everything looked fine. I said no, something is different, please check my eyes again. The doctor did another test which turned out to be the Amsler Grid Eye Test and this time, the eye doctor saw what could be wrong with my eyes.
I was sent to a Retina doctor for further testing with hopes of only needing glasses or surgery. But the news was grim. I had the early stages of Macular Degeneration.
There was no cure, no treatment, no anything. I would eventually lose my ability to see using my central vision. This would affect my reading, my driving, and my occupation in advertising, which I loved. For the first time in my life, I cried after hearing the diagnosis. I didn’t cry when I learned I had Crohn’s Disease or when I was told 11 times in my life that I needed surgery or when I learned that I had to have a Colostomy because there was always hope. But being told you have an eye condition that will rob you of your vision, well, that was brutal.
I decided to get a second opinion. (Always get a second opinion.) And, yes, the diagnosis was the same, Macular Degeneration. However, this Retina doctor gave me hope. She told me that research was going on all across the country to find a cure or treatment and there were eye vitamins available that contained essential vitamins that were proven to help slow the progression of the disease. So, with hope in my back pocket, I started my life living with Macular Degeneration.
Okay, it wasn’t a cakewalk. But I managed. Due to the restrictions on my ability to help my clients in a visual medium, advertising, and the restrictions on my driving, I had to close my little business. With no income, I applied for Disability. Later, I found out by accident, there is a wealth of help out there for those who are visually impaired. But you have to look for it. For some reason, help is not widely promoted.
I think if you check, most states have some kind of help available for the visually impaired. In the State of Florida, there is the Dept. of Blind Services run by the Dept. of Education. They have offices all over the state. I contacted the office near me and after meeting with a counselor for an interview, I was given tools to help me live with my impairment and possibly get back to work, in some way. I was given a 26” computer monitor along with ZoomText software so I would be able to see what was on my screen. They also provided me with a portable magnifier so I could read things while ‘on the go’. These tools were a God-send.
But what helped me was finding a Low Vision Specialist. If you are not working with one, I recommend finding one. A Low Vision Specialist goes beyond what your typical eye doctor does in that they determine how much vision you have left and then find devices or new technology that will allow you to see the things you want to see.
My Low Vision Specialist fitted me with Bi-optic glasses and introduced me to my Dr. Lite Clarity Magnifier Lamp. The Bi-optic glasses allow me to drive on a very limited basis while the Dr. Lite lamp was engineered specifically for those with low vision as it blocks the harmful blue light that your everyday lamps emit. I learned that blue light will aggravate Macular Degeneration and lead to vision loss. You also benefit from being exposed to reduced flicker, reduced glare, and eyes that don’t get tired after reading or working at your computer for long periods. Another great feature of my Dr. Lite Clarity Magnifier Lamp is the built-in magnifier. I can see things up close while being hands-free. I mean, who wants to hold a magnifying glass all the time?
I can happily say, that my life with Macular Degeneration is not as bad as I thought it would be. If you have to go to a function and would like to avoid certain people, It’s easy. Just ignore them and if they corner you, just tell them you didn’t see them. And the best part is aging. Seeing clearly when looking in the mirror is something you deal with. But it’s not all bad. See, as you age, when you look in a mirror you will not notice it as much as those without MD.
Who needs a facelift when you’ve got Macular Degeneration? Also, people are kind. When I am out shopping and forget my hand-held magnifying glass, strangers are always eager to help me when a label Is hard for me to read.
I can now drive and I’ve also found part-time work using my computer in my home office. Last, I feel very fortunate. I know there must be thousands of people out in the world who have health issues much worse than mine and would give anything to trade places with me. So how can I complain?
My new life is good.