Welcome to the club

By Mike Morris

Saturday, October 16, 2010 was a memorable night for many of us in Madison. That evening, the Ohio State Buckeyes came into Camp Randall Stadium as the No. 1 ranked football team in the nation. Comparatively, Wisconsin was ranked 18th in the nation. By the time the night was over, the Badgers prevailed 31-18 over the previously unbeaten Buckeyes.

I had a few people over to our house to watch the game. We watched as the opening kickoff was returned by Wisconsin for a touchdown, giving the Badgers a lead they would not relinquish. At half-time we enjoyed a roasted pesto pork loin with root vegetables. In the second half, everything was a blur.

Welcome to the club. In a matter of minutes, my life changed from one of 20/20 corrected vision to a life with myopic macular degeneration (wet form) in my left eye. I’d grown up with poor vision. Glasses have been a life requirement for as long as I can remember, except for a few years when I switched to contacts.

It was a year earlier when we discovered an abnormal vision change. I was wearing contacts, and chalked some unclear vision up to my last pair of very old contact lenses. I wasn’t the best at getting to an eye doctor, or wearing my contacts for 30 days. Heck, if I saw an opportunity to save a few bucks and extend wearing contacts longer, I would.

This time, the reduced vision was more than old contacts. I bounced around from doctor to doctor for a while. No one was sure why I struggled to see well with my left eye, but no one indicated my vision would decline in the future.

Back to the night of 2010 and the abrupt change in my vision. After halftime, I sat in the same seat I watched the first half. During the second half, the TV was out of focus. I recall walking around the house, rubbing my eyes in hopes that the vision would clear up. It didn’t. I chose to keep what was occurring to myself through the balance of the evening. After everyone left, I told my wife the news.

Something I learned over the years is Madison is a great place to be when you need a medical professional. Two days after I recognized my vision had changed, I was able to see a doctor of optometry. I explained what occurred; he did a few tests and looked around my eye. He, like doctors in the past, told me that he didn’t know why I wasn’t seeing well, but he didn’t see anything wrong with my eye.

Look again, I said. He did, and said he couldn’t see anything. Look again, I said in a respectful yet frustrated tone. He did, then left the room. I sat there with my wife, confused, angry, and admittedly a little scared. After a few minutes the doctor returned, and this is what he said.

“I was able to get a hold of one of the retina specialists. You need to get upstairs to see him right now. There is fluid in the back of your eye, specifically in the macula. This doctor needs to see you now and inject a drug. Come on, let’s go, I will show you to his office.”

A couple minutes later, I was meeting a slew of new people. Sign here, one said and I did. Suddenly, my chair was tilted back. Tape was applied to the side of my face. Someone covered my eye with iodine, and an eye-lid speculum was inserted and then a needle pierced the eyeball.

Welcome to the club. With that shot in my eye, I officially became a member of the macular degeneration club. I was 39.

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