Let the Horse Out of Her Harness

I have been very bad recently. I have not been taking care of business like I should. I have been listening to several audio books on BARD as one distraction.

Even though I cannot actually read the books I like to go to the bookstore to browse. I saw the latest J.D. Robb, Echoes in Death, and – praise be! – it was available for free from BARD!

I would like to ‘read’ the new Lisbeth Salander novel (The Girl Who Took an Eye for an Eye), but it is not available yet in BARD. Watch and wait. Anticipate a good read. The new guy is not exactly Stieg Larssen but he is none too shabby either. I am a Lisbeth fan.

Do you have favorite authors? They are probably available on BARD. If I am just browsing, the BARD offerings are overwhelming for me. I have found browsing the bookstore and looking later for titles that interest me is more productive.

I also sometimes check the new offering and download something out of the ordinary for me but that still sparks interest. Mix it up. Keep it fresh.

We took my photos to the competition site this week. Now I get to wait and see how I fare.

I like to go to the photo show and listen to people spout off about my work. This is especially true if I place. Someone always manages to say he could have taken that photo if he had been able to go on that vacation.

When I talked about that to a friend, she laughed and wondered out loud what these people would think if they knew the photographer was ‘half blind’.

I am not sure I would want that particular piece of information to change their attitudes. I am not sure I would want concessions just because I have a vision loss. Let them be snarky about my work. Let them criticize me like they do everyone else. I chose to be in the fray with all the ‘normal’ people. Snarky, sour grapes comments just come with the territory.

Of course, if they knew, I might get a double whammy. I might get criticized not only for going cool places, but also for ‘courting’ the sympathy vote. Damned if you do ….

Up all night (literally) that same night caring for the dog and asleep from 6 pm until the morning the next night. Just trying to recover.

All nighters at 64 do not have the same effect as all nighters when you are 24. God, how did we do it?

Not that they were derelictions of duty. In my opinion, caring for others as well as for yourself are some of the highest callings.

So those things – plus dance exercise and yoga classes – are the reasons my reports have not been done and my pages have not gotten written. Let things get lax but then tighten back up. Today I wrote one report and about half of another. Tomorrow I go to my hospital’s first vision seminar and take lots of notes for pages. Sometimes you just have to let the horse out of her harness. Sometimes you have to put her back in.

Written September 22nd, 2017 Continue reading “Let the Horse Out of Her Harness”

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Not Your Parents’ AMD

3 pm Monday and so far it is a good day. The pool guy is working on my new liner. The funny thingee on my tummy is a normal, benign growth and the transportation company got new vans with fancy logos painted on them. No more confusion with two dozen, white vans. Life is looking up!

Lin told me there was a conversation thread in the Facebook group about parents who struggled with AMD. People remember what their mothers and fathers went through and they are determined not to become like them.

I am reasonably sure my father’s vision problems were AMD. The more I think about it his father’s vision problems may have been AMD. I remember both of them using a handheld lens to read the newspaper as well as the really strange interpretations Daddy would have when it came to TV shows. I have no idea what HE was watching but it was not the same thing I was watching!

I have said it a couple of dozen times and I will say it again: this is the best time in the history of the human race to be losing our sight. Absolutely the best. You may not realize it. You may remember what you saw and think we are doomed to go there too but we are not. We really are not.

I tried a handheld magnifier for a couple of weeks. Not doing that again. They are very inefficient. I have my CCTV, my handheld reader and my iPad which can go in the Justand.

[Lin:Linda: To see what Sue uses on a daily basis, check out these pages: A Day in the Life and A Day in the Life:Work Day.]

I can get newspapers on my phone and books from BARD (there are other sources, too, as well as magazines which are available).  I’m able to take a picture of pretty much any text I want and my KNFB Reader will read it to me. The zoom feature on my iPad will allow me to read email and research pretty efficiently. ZoomText allows me to work. (refer to the “Day in the Life” pages above)

If I want to look at something a little distance away I can use my max TV glasses or my monocular. Not too bad.

Depending upon when Lin publishes this page, you either have or will be hearing about audio description services (coming soon!). If my father had had those for the TV we would have been “on the same page” a lot more than we were when we watched programs together. Audio description can also allow you to go to the movies and live theater and actually know what is going on.

Do I want to be losing my sight? Hell, no! This is not a walk in the park but it is not what Daddy endured either. Just the same he made it into his mid 80s and managed to take care of himself until other issues brought him down. If he could do it without all of the toys, I can do it.  [Lin/Linda: My dad had geographic atrophy & took care of my mother who had Alzheimer’s using several different handheld magnifiers & a few other low vision aids.]

Yet another reason to be optimistic is all of the exciting research happening. We are poised for a veritable explosion of treatments. Not cures, mind you, but treatments. Thirty years ago there was nothing.

[Lin/Linda: To see what’s in the research pipeline, click here.]

What can you do? Be willing. Use what has been provided. If you put that iPad your son gave you in the drawer you have absolutely no grounds for complains. Bluntly put? Your extra suffering will be your own damn fault.

What else? Volunteer. Sign up for clinical trials. Join support groups. Share your knowledge and skills.

Life – and this vision loss bit included – is the craziest thing you will ever experience and none of us get out alive. Make the most of it while you can.

Continue reading “Not Your Parents’ AMD”

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In a Pig’s Eye

About three hours later and the ‘tapering’ snowstorm is not tapering. Anyone ever read ‘Ghost Story’ by Peter Straub? It scared my socks off on a summer day. On a day like today I would probably be quivering under the covers! [Lin/Linda: this was written in March of 2017.  In ‘real time’ it’s July 2017 when many of us in the US are having record high temperatures. Thinking of snow is ‘refreshing’!]

In ‘Ghost Story’ it starts to snow. They cannot keep the roads open and it snows. The electricity goes out and it snows. The phones go out and it snows. Eventually some smart soul figures out there is a malevolent force at work in this small, New York town. Yipes!

‘Ghost Story’ is on page 3 of the Gs in BARD. It is available as an audiobook on Amazon for $17.95. If you are still able to read print, you can get it used for about ⅕ of that price.

Another way to scare your socks off? ‘Turn of the Screw’ by Henry James. This one is a classic and free on Kindle. It is on page 15 of the Ts in BARD.

I will vouch for them both as excellent reads. Anyone else have any recommendations they would like to share? Just because we cannot see so well, doesn’t mean we cannot enjoy a good book. Since we like to think of our group as a cut above, try to avoid recommending trashy novels.  Although for a whole series of semi-trashy novels I would recommend the ‘….in Death’ series by J.D. Robb, also available on BARD.😀 [Lin/Linda: one of my favorites, too, but I don’t think I’d call it ‘trashy’ but definitely R-rated.   Click here for the list in order of publication date.  They’re available at amazon.com, too.  Click here for the first one ‘Naked In Death’.]

Anyway, that was NOT the way I was going to start this page. Not the topic either. I just looked outside and found it all a bit surreal. We are approaching an accumulation of two feet. Not much for some other places but impressive for Pennsylvania.

What I was going to do was tell you about “in a pig’s eye” and how the phrase now has a new meaning. For our international friends, “in a pig’s eye” is an old American expression that implies disbelief. It is the antiquated version of “No way!”

Now, they are finding a way to study drusen in a pig’s eye. Well, actually in a culture medium in which they have placed retinal ‘pig’-ment epithelium cells. (Alright, so it was corny, but I couldn’t resist.) They have found out that pig RPEs are similar in many ways to human RPEs. They have discovered the RPEs in early AMD are actually still functioning and the Bruch’s membrane may have more of a part in the process than previously believed.

This should just be the first of many good discoveries to come out of the pig’s eye experiments. Because they are now able to do a lot of manipulations of pig RPEs being grown in cultures, research can go faster. A lot faster than it would go trying to get people to have all these manipulations done on THEIR eyes.

So there is ever increasing hope here. When you tell people there is a bright future for AMD folks and they say “in a pig’s eye!”, your response can now be “Exactly!”

Keep on keeping on. There is hope.

Now could somebody stop this snow? Enough is enough already! Continue reading “In a Pig’s Eye”

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Highlight: Books

Here are some books about various aspects of AMD.  Are there others that you can recommend?

Books

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Tech Talk

On one of my ‘out to lunch’ ladies’ excursions we stopped at our local cellular store. I had been having difficulty with my cell phone. Or perhaps I should say my cell phone was having problems with me. I was unable to read my text. I was calling people I had no intention of calling. It’s amazing how similar some names appear when you really can’t see them well.

I was unable to read my text. I was calling people I had no intention of calling.

Tyler took my friend and me under his wing. He got into the accessibility menu of my telephone and tried to make the font big enough for me to see. He tried to point out all sorts of exciting things that could be done with my Android phone. It’s rather amazing what is on such a small machine.

Tyler wanted to put TalkBack on my phone. I demurred. I had already had it on and had a devil of a time getting it back off again. A sweet young woman in Maine and I spent 10 minutes laughing together. We could not shut the TalkBack lady off! Every time the phone was jostled that accursed voice would tell me the time! Things got so bad I suggested the young lady make a house call to help me out. After all Maine is only 8 hours away and this was an emergency! Thank heavens, I was finally able to quiet the TalkBack lady before we needed to go to these extreme measures.

There are accessibility features on both Android and Apple phones. Some are more trouble than they are worth.

So why am I talking about my interactions with the cell phone people? Well for one reason, these encounters once again prove my point that there are wonderful people in the world. I truly believe most people will help if you give them the opportunity. It makes people feel good to help. This is particularly true if the person they are trying to help maintains a sense of humor. A strong sense of the absurd is helpful, too.

I truly believe most people will help if you give them an opportunity especially if you maintain a sense of humor.

Another reason I have for highlighting these encounters is they gave me an opportunity to use the DBT Comparison Strategy. You remember: that is the Distress Tolerance Skill that basically says “hey, things could be worse. Look at that poor guy!” OK, maybe not those exact words, but you get the point.

“Hey, things could be worse. Look at that poor guy!”

I was thinking about what my father had to help him when he had AMD. He made do with a hand-held magnifying lens. Twenty years ago that was pretty much the state of the art.

Comparatively speaking, now is a great time to be losing your vision. Probably the best time yet in the history of the species. How do you like that for cockeyed optimism?

There is so much more to help people with low vision than the hand-held magnifier of 20 years ago.

I mentioned that I have always been an avid reader. Right now I cannot pick up a book or a magazine and get much out of it. However, I have read The Secret Garden in the last few weeks. How? Amazon has free classics to download on a tablet. I have a zoom feature on my tablet that allowed me to magnify the text. I may have had to turn the page at every paragraph, but I read the book.

I even solved the problem of ‘mystery novel interruptus’ that happened when I had to stop 30 pages shy of the end of a new releases paperback I had. Joy of joys, the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services tech guy loaned me a CCTV. That is closed-circuit TV. You put a paper or whatever you want to read under the camera and it shows up HUGE on the screen. It will have to go to the office when I go back to work, but right now I can get away with trying it out on some things here at home.

The tech guy loaned me a CCTV which makes things you put under the camera HUGE.

The bottom line for this post? You have technical resources. Get yourself to your friendly neighborhood tech or phone store and ask for help. Devices you already own – a cell phone, a tablet – have accessibility settings. Ask someone to help you use them. We have more resources to help us than any generation before us. Comparably speaking, it’s a pretty good time to lose your sight.

You probably already own a device that has accessibility settings.  Ask someone to help you use them.

Continue reading “Tech Talk”

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Resources

Please read the disclaimer.  I will also admit that I have not read every word of every reference.  I’m just trying to provide resources to help you do your own research in addition to what we have found. – Linda…

updated August 27th, 2017

Navigating: There are a lot of links here.  I’ve set up this page so that when you click on a link (words that are underlined & in blue or green), a NEW tab will open in your browser and this page STAYS WHERE IT IS.  When you are done with the new page you opened, just close it.  You do NOT need to use the back option.  If you click on a link and the new page replaces this one, I’VE MADE A MISTAKE so please let me know by sending me an email at light2sight5153@gmail.com.  Let me know exactly which link or links do not open a new tab or window.

Errors: If you click on a link and you get a ‘page not found’ error, please let me know by sending me an email at light2sight5153@gmail.com.  Let me know exactly which link or links do not open a new tab or window.

Additions: If you have a link you’d like to add, please email at light2sight5153@gmail.com.


Topics-click below to move to a topic

Links We Like

  • Click here for a GREAT resource where you answer some simple questions and you get a customized guide based on your responses
  • Click here for a great glossary
  • Click here to take several quizzes to test your knowledge of the disease
  • Click here for Low Vision Resources: A List of Lists (such as 8 ways to slow AMD, 15 tips for family and friends, etc)
  • Videos
    • Click here for several videos
    • Click here for the UK Macular Society’s Say Hello to Mac
    • Click here for one that uses illustrations and animation (explains how wet AMD progresses and how the injections work)
  • Click here for a description of dry vs. wet AMD (we are not recommending any products in this article)
  • Click here for an article about depression after diagnosis
  • Click here for a very comprehensive page about wet AMD
  • Click here for a very comprehensive page about dry AMD
  • Click here for a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) that answers a long list of questions such as ‘will resting help my eyes?’, ‘Can I see for myself if my retina or macula shows any signs of damage before I have symptoms?’, ‘why don’t new eye glasses help?’, ‘what is meant by degeneration?’, ‘is a macular hole the same as macular degeneration’, ‘I have had dry MD for years. Does this mean I’m going to get wet MD too?’, ‘No one else in my family has MD. Why did I get it?’, ‘can drusen be treated?’, ‘I have changes on the Amsler Grid, does this mean I have MD’, ‘I have Wet MD but my Doctor says there is nothing he can do or no treatment available. Why is this?’
  • Click here for a short introduction to stems cells, what they are and how they can be used.
  • Click here for a summary of AMD research and developments in the past 12 months (posted June 2016)

See what vision is like at the various stages of AMD

Click here to find ways to see simulations of what vision loss due to AMD is like at various stages.


Glossary

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Websites devoted to AMD

listed in no particular order

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Websites containing information about AMD

listed in no particular order

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Support

Message Boards including ones from
By postal mail
  • Association for Macular Diseases
    210 E. 64th Street
    New York, NY 10021
    (212) 605-3719
    – Offers education and information on macular disease through seminars, newsletters, and a hotline. Offers counseling to patients and their families.
  • Macular Degeneration International
    is now a part of Foundation Fighting Blindness
    Toll Free Helpline 1-800-683-5555
    EMail: MDInfo@blindness.org
    – Provides support for people affected by inherited macular degeneration including Stargardt’s disease.
Start Your Own
  • Vision Support Group-download video presentations  This group provides free information and support through presentations to groups of senior adults affected by macular degeneration and related retinal diseases.  You can join & get access to their materials so you can use them in your own group.
On the phone/telesupport

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Where to find services

  • In the US: click here to find a low vision center, retina specialist, state agency, ophthalmologist
  • In the UK: click here to support services (listed on the right side of the page) such as skills for seeing, counseling, access to treatment…and more
  • In the US: click here to search for a wide variety of services (more than the link above)
  • In Australia: click here to find an ophthalmologist and optometrist
  • Worldwide: click here for resources worldwide

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Books and reading materials

Specific Titles

Sources of Books

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Videos

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Personal stories of living with AMD

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Online newsletters

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What is AMD?

Wet Form
Dry Form
How fast does AMD progress?
  • A good article about how difficult this is to answer
  • Great video that explains why early detection is important especially when detecting the change from dry AMD to wet

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What is Stargardt’s Disease?

Also called Stargardt’s Disease (SD) or Stargardt Macular Dystrophy (SMD) or Juvenile Macular Degeneration (JMD), it’s an inherited, juvenile macular degeneration. The progressive vision loss associated with Stargardt disease is caused by the death of photoreceptor cells in the central portion of the retina called the macula.

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The Science Stuff

Role of RPEs

Geographic Atrophy

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Symptoms

Charles Bonnet Syndrome/Visual hallucinations

Other problems with vision & AMD

  • problems with visual acuity, photostress, blindspots, color vision, sensitivity to light, depth perception
  • eye problems that have similar symptoms as AMD:

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Possible causes/contributing factors

Age

  • Age is a large factor but can start earlier
  • Much less common are several hereditary forms of macular degeneration, which usually affect children or teenagers. Collectively, they are called Juvenile Macular Degeneration. They include Best’s Disease, Stargardt’s Disease, Sorsby’s Disease and some others.  See Stargard’s Disease section above.

Diet/nutrition (working on this section)

  • diet low in various nutrients & high in others have been linked to AMD.
  • See Nutrition and Vitamins/Supplements under Self-care/self-maintenance below.

Race

Gender

  • AMD more common in women perhaps because women live longer than men

Uncontrolled high blood pressure

Uncontrolled high cholesterol

Smoking

Genetics

Blue Light

Eye Color

Aspirin & other medications

Other possible causes

  • Biological Process in Wet AMD – some evidence that the photoreceptors are starved by the lack of food (oxygen & nutrients in the blood) and the growth of blood vessels is to compensate for that.

Connection between AMD and Alzheimer’s Disease

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Treatments

  • FDA approved options in the US, injections, implantable telescopes, laser treatment (also outside the US)
Injections for Wet AMD
Telescopic implants
Are there new treatments in the pipeline?
Vitamins (see Self Maintenance/Self Care section below)

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Research/Clinical trials

 

How can I become a part of a clinical trial?

  • A list of sources of information about clinical trials and how to find out for you to participate in.
  • You can search for clinical trials from the links above
  • There are registries where you sign up and enter information about the status of your eyes.  Researchers will use this information to find people that match their research and contact you.  Click here for more information about these registries in the US and elsewhere

Gene Therapy

Bionic Eye/Retinal Implants

  • What is a bionic eye?  It’s also called retinal implant or retinal prosthesis.   Implant is put in retina, camera worn by person sends image to implant which stimulates optic nerve
  • Click here for overview of retinal implants including videos of how it works & interviews with people who have them.
  • March 21, 2016 UK Bionic eye being tested
  • Here’s an article about one being developed at Carnegie Mellon institute in Pittsburgh, PA.

Nutritional Supplements

  • See Vitamins/Supplements section below.

Stem Cells

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Coping with low vision

Low Vision Aids

Wearable Technology

  • coming soon!

Suppliers of low vision aids

Financial Help

Sunglasses

Lamps

Transportation

  • A website for the US where you enter your zip code and transportation options for your area will be shown.

Bioptic Driving

Depression

Checking vision

Amsler Grid

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Self maintenance/self care

Low vision rehabilitation

Vitamins/Supplements

Nutrition

Exercise/Activity

 


More to come, you can check out these posts now

Video: Overview of Assistive Technology for People with Low Vision

Highlight: How do I use Zoom for Apple products?

Highlight: What about Apple’s accessibility features?

News: Top 10 Low Vision Aids for AMD

 


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