Lucretia Harden’s eyesight had gotten so bad, she could no longer see out of her left eye.
Leaking blood vessels from diabetic macular edema had clouded her vision to the point she could no longer drive.
In 2014, she sought treatment.
Surgery removed scar tissue, but she needed monthly injections to patch the tiny vessels.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Telegraph
“It really increased my sight. I was able to come back to work, you know, and maintain my normal routine,” said Harden, a 56-year-old Certified Nursing Assistant in Byron.
Her specialist, Dr. David Chin Yee, explains her condition by using an analogy of a leaking garden hose.
If the leak gets too bad, the garden doesn’t get enough water to keep growing.
Without proper blood flow to the eye, it can go blind.
Scheduling the monthly injections and allowing time for them to take affect was interfering with her work caring for patients in their homes.
In November, Chin Yee suggested a newly FDA-approved implant, Iluvien.
“This new medication or treatment is actually a pellet that we inject in the eye similar to the other medication, but it’s a longer acting pellet,” Chin Yee said in a recent phone interview from his office in Atlanta. “So the beautiful thing is, instead of getting a shot every month, this lasts for 36 months, so three years.”
Harden said the treatment has made a dramatic impact on her life.
“I can read. Before, I couldn’t read, but I can read books and, you know, read very small letters that I couldn’t see before,” Harden said.
She even sees better at night without her glasses.
Chin Yee, who also has an office off Bass Road in north Macon, said the longer lasting pellet has other benefits.
“It decreases the risk of infection, it decreases the need for them to keep coming back to get shots and it helps to preserve their vision long-term and that’s the beauty of it,” he said.
Not only is Harden thrilled to be able to do the work she loves, but the most exciting aspect of Harden’s treatment is that she can drive again.
Especially since her husband bought her a 2017 Hyundai Tucson.
“Oh my God. I can see. I see my brand new car,” she remembered saying. “It really have made my life better, you know, to see clearer. My vision is much better and I’m thankful for that.”
Chin Yee said that while the upfront cost is a little more expensive, over the course of three years, it is actually cheaper than regular injections.
The treatment is covered by most insurance, Medicare and Medicaid and is performed in his office by numbing the eyes.
“You don’t feel any pain or discomfort but you do feel a little pressure in terms of the injection or treatment,” Chin Yee said.
The steroid treatment can cause elevated eye pressure, so not everyone is a candidate.
“It’s a game changer,” he said. “It’s a life changer.”
Harden smiles widely when she talks about the difference it has made in her life.”
“Now, you know, I’m just enjoying life. I can see!”