The Art Of New AMD Treatments
Education and Advocacy When Patty Gill was diagnosed with wet AMD, there were no treatments. Now, breakthrough therapies are giving her a shot at saving her vision.
ainter Patty Gill used to bring her artistic view to life with each stroke of her brush, but, when she was 58, she noticed her vision began to change.
“When I was painting, I couldn’t tell whether the brush was hitting the canvas,” says Gill. She also noticed street signs weren’t as easy to read. Then one day she woke up and it was as if a large black cloud was directly in the middle of her field of view.
It took a year, and multiple specialists at different hospitals, to finally determine what was wrong. Meanwhile, Gill’s eyesight continued to deteriorate, making corners of walls appear curved.
Finally, she was told she had wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), but at the time, getting diagnosed was only half the battle.
“The thing was, it didn’t really matter because there was no treatment,” says Gill.
Seeing advancements in treatment
Nearly two decades later, Gill is now 77 and has seen unbelievable advances in the treatment and diagnosis of wet AMD.
“It’s tremendous what’s happened, it’s like coming out of the dark ages,” says Gill, adding that her mother suffered from the same condition and passed away not knowing what she had.
Initially, Gill was subjected to a laser procedure, which she later discovered actually damaged her eyes further rather than repairing them. Following that, she received another form of treatment that involved injecting a dye, making her extremely sensitive to light and turning her skin a yellowish-orange, “like the Baywatch girls.”
Everything changed with the advent of the latest available anti-VEGF treatment approved by Health Canada coming in the form of injections — proteins that stop the abnormal growth of blood vessels below the retina. Gill began getting monthly injections in both of her affected eyes, and says the difference is clear almost immediately.
“All of a sudden, it’s like — wow, I can see!” she says. “It was like a little miracle.”
Gill’s “Gregory Peck”
The success of the injections means that twice a month, Gill’s husband Hugh Cleland drives her from Burlington to Toronto for treatment.
“I’ve become her Uber driver,” laughs Cleland, “but she doesn’t give any tips!” Cleland, 83, not only helps Gill with her appointments but has become a helping hand in her painting studio as well — combining their views of the world into a single work of art.
“He does the painting and I do the finishing touches, the highlights and the lowlights,” says Gill. Though Gill still has trouble reading and cannot drive, she says the injections have helped her see nearly everything, from their cruises to their lunches with friends to her dutiful husband — although Cleland jokes that if her eyesight gets any better, she might realize that he doesn’t look like actor Gregory Peck.
“I’m lucky I can still see, and if it wasn’t for the injections, I wouldn’t be seeing this well at all,” she says.