Yes, Virginia

In real-time today is my birthday. I am 63 years young. Or at least I feel fairly young. Most of the time. ?

I hope to make it to 93 (not too much longer. Not wanting to have a poor quality of life at the end). That makes me wonder what visual impairment is going to be like in 30 years. Will there even be visual impairment? Will the Audacious Goal project actually work? Will age-related macular degeneration be listed along with leprosy and scurvy? Let us hope so.

“Oh, yes, Virginia. There was a disease that caused people’s noses to rot off. And do you know what? There was even a disease in which people could not see faces! How strange!”

All this also made me wonder about the state of visual impairment in 1953. In 1953 the United States developed the hydrogen bomb. Walt Disney released Peter Pan and Chevrolet built the first Corvette. Technology marched forward.

In 1953 the estimated prevalence of the blind in the United States was approximately 2%. As compared to today, a larger percentage of that percentage was children. A list in Epidemiology of Neurologic and Sense Organ Disorders (Kurland, Kurtzke & Goldberg, 1963) contained a whole laundry list of causes of blindness in children. The data were from the 1930s until the 1950s. The list included toxoplasmosis, rubella, syphilis, tuberculosis, and something called ophthalmia neonatorum.

I looked that last one up. It is conjunctivitis contracted from an infection in the birth canal. A little antibiotic ointment applied at birth takes care of that one now. And those of you in the developed world, when was the last time you heard of a child congenitally blind from TB? If that happened here, it would be an outrage!

You are intelligent people; you get my point. We have come light-years from where we were the year I was born. Some of it has been delightful progress and some has been scary ‘progress’ but it has happened in one, short life time.

As children, many of us escaped blindness because of the research being done on infectious diseases. Now that we are a bit older, we are helping to advance the cause by helping with the new medical research. Do I think we are going to find a cure, or at least an effective treatment, for dry AMD in the next 30 years or less? Absolutely. I am counting on it.

All in all, this is the best time yet in history to be going blind.

Written 7/17/2016

Next: Time to hibernate

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