Rita B.
Wet Macular Degeneration
Lafayette, IN


My Story

Little did I know what was in store for me that day that I first noticed the strange, wavy appearance of the lane marking lines on the road as I drove home from my job as an RN in the Critical Care unit of our local hospital.  Next came a shower of floaters.  I felt fine, so I shrugged it off as an indication that my blood pressure was too high.  It had been a hectic, stressful day.  I probably just needed to get some rest. 

The next thing I knew, my vision was a little blurred, so I sought the help of a nearby optometrist.  He checked my vision on the chart and prescribed a pair of glasses. 

After a week or two with my new glasses, I was really having trouble. My vision wasn’t better with the glasses and I had discovered a strange grey spot in the center of my field of vision when I closed my left eye.  I mentioned this to my head nurse, who concluded that I had the symptoms of a detached retina and urged me to go back to the eye doctor for a more thorough exam. 

The eye doctor looked at my eyes very carefully and suggested that I see a retina specialist . . . immediately. 

So early the next morning, hubby and I found ourselves sitting in the waiting room of Dr. Fountain.  He ‘squeezed me in’ ahead of his patients who had appointments and put me through the paces.  Eye chart, dilate my eyes (first time for me), bright lights in my eyes, more bright lights and Polaroids of my eyes, IV medicine and more pictures.  Finally, a few hours later, we were shown into his office and on the wall were ‘my eyes’.  We got the news that I had Macular Degeneration, the wet form.  My right eye had bled from a tiny network of abnormal vessels and was now forming scar tissue where this bleeding had separated my retinal layers.  The whole thing had happened long enough ago that there was nothing to be done but watch it. 

He told me that I had a 1 in 10 chance every year for the next 10 years of the same thing happening in the other eye.  So we went home and I did Amsler grids every day and went to work each day and held my breath.

The following February, almost a year to the day later, my left eye began the same ‘wavy lines’ stuff as I had first noticed in my right eye.  This time I knew what was happening.  We again made the dash to Indianapolis and the news was exactly as we had dreaded.  I had a ‘bleed’ in my left eye.  There was hope to offer this time because we had caught it early enough. So I had my first of three laser treatments and was able to continue working.  By the time I was back for the fourth time, Dr. Fountain told me with a tear in his eye and a bit of a choke in his voice that there was nothing more he could do for me.  We would just have to let this bleed run its course.  My days as an RN were over. My vision was now bad enough that I qualified for Disability.  So I went home and my husband and I filled out the mountains of paperwork to apply for disability benefits from my job and from Social Security.  I was 42 years old.

About six months later, a nurse friend suggested that I visit the Vocational Rehab office in Lafayette.   We lived out in the country and I was home bound.  Being unemployed and blind had been a giant struggle and I wasn’t coping well. 

So I went to Vocational Rehab.  The counselor suggested that I go back to school and ‘retrain’.  I flatly rejected the idea.  How could I get to campus and then how could I get anything accomplished sitting in classes where I couldn’t see!!!  He suggested that I see Dr. Windsor who would help me with special glasses and other assistive devices.  That sounded good to me.  Then he suggested that I train to be a bioptic driver.  Was the man insane???  I was blind, how could I possibly drive?  Another flat rejection.

Fast forward 12 years.  I have been adjusting, acclimating and doing okay.  I have helped start a support group at a retirement home in a nearby community and I have learned how to operate a computer.  I have even gotten involved with a book club that is affiliated with my church.  I’m getting a little tired of being so dependent on my husband to take me everywhere I want to go.  And I think he is really tired of being my chauffer.  He has a full time job, after all!!

Another nurse friend, who shares my interest in Christian Fiction, has from time to time suggested that I would be perfect as an adjunct faculty member where she works as a professor In the Nursing program. 

So I finally muster up the courage to go back to Vocational Rehab and check it out.  ‘Yes, I still qualify.  Yes, I can try it and if it doesn’t work out, no problem.  You can try again. ‘

So I entered the program.  We made the trip to Indianapolis and this time we were visiting Dr. Windsor.  It’s been a long time since that first time I went to him in Marion, but he is still enthusiastic about showing me all the possibilities. 

Through Dr. Windsor, Vocational Rehab, and Crossroads Rehabilitation, I completed the bioptic driving training.  I was a timid driver when my vision was 20/20 and I am still a timid driver.  I tell people that you will never see me on the interstate—I can’t see that fast. 

You will see me on the streets of Lafayette.  I can now go to the grocery by myself!!  I can now meet a friend for lunch by myself!!  I can now take myself to work and home again. . . by myself!!

I have to share that this has changed my life immensely.  I got that job as an Adjunct Faculty at Ivy Tech.  I am teaching classes that are required for degrees in the Health Sciences.  The counselor that I worked with to get my driving privileges back encouraged me to start a support group here in Lafayette.  I did and it is going strong.  I even got our local newspaper to feature me in a story about bioptic driving.  If this timid driver who waited until she was nearing retirement age can learn to drive and go back to work can do it—anyone can. 

A little PS. . . being able to drive has boosted my confidence.  I am now returning to college and completing my Bachelor’s Degree and I’m doing it all on the Internet.