August 11 2003.
By Brian Feldman,
Violet Meyerson had been legally blind in one eye for nine years from age-related macular degeneration and knew the telltale signs of the onset of the disease in her other eye.
"Imagine getting up every day and your vision steadily gets worse, and knowing you'll be legally blind and dependent in a very short time," said Meyerson, 71, of Hollywood. "I feel there must be a lesson to give to other people from my experience, and I want to tell people there really are such things as second chances in life."
As people age, their chances of developing eye diseases increase dramatically, she said. Macular degeneration is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, the inside back layer of the eye that records images and sends them via the optic nerve from the eye to the brain. The retina's central portion, the macula, is responsible for focusing central vision in the eye and controls the ability to read, drive, recognize faces or colors, and see objects in fine detail.
The disease leaves its victims legally blind, able to only see to the side.
When Meyerson went to her eye specialist, she was told there was no cure.
"`It's time to make your adjustments,' my doctor told me, and prepare myself to be dependent ... for the rest my life," she said.
Meyerson underwent a period of "deep, deep depression" when the first symptoms appeared because she knew it would only be two months before she would be legally blind.
"It's not a long time before it happens, and it doesn't give you time to prepare to descend into darkness," Meyerson said.
Meyerson, a former schoolteacher, real estate agent and commodities broker, began going to specialists and preparing herself for blindness when she had a stroke of profound luck. A friend of a friend from her native New York City called and told her about a doctor who was having success in preserving sight at Duke University's Eye Center.
The physician, Dr. Cynthia Toth, is considered a pioneer in macular translocation surgery. The procedure involves two surgeries. The first lifts the macula from underlying abnormal blood vessels and moves it to a healthier location to restore central reading vision. The second procedure corrects the tilted vision that is a common side effect of the surgery.
"The message is that you have to be your own advocate," Meyerson said. She is speaking out on the subject and has even written to newspapers and taken them to task for quoting experts who say there is no cure for age-related macular degeneration.
"I wouldn't have known about the surgery," Meyerson said. "I had pretty much given up hope until that phone call. Now it's my missionary work. It's my second chance. Someone gave me a second chance and now, for whatever years I have left, it's a gift, and I'd like to turn on the light for someone else. I'd like to open the door and tell them to take one more step if they don't know where to go."
For more information about macular translocation surgery at Duke University's Eye Center, visit
Contact Steve Plunkett at
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