Crawford participates in national study

By MOLLIE BROWN / Community Columnist

In June 2007, life-long Calera resident Nell Crawford noticed her right eye continually watered. She consulted Dr. Michael Anderson in Montevallo and was told her she had a macular condition.

“I asked him what in the world is that?” Crawford said. “Is it something like the old age disease that people used to get?”

Crawford was diagnosed with Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Of the two types, wet and dry, Crawford had wet AMD. Anderson referred her to Dr. Robert Morris of Retina Specialists of Alabama, located within UAB Highlands Hospital. Morris, a board certified ophthalmologist, is recognized for his expertise in treating the macula (the center of vision).

Nell Crawford, right, and her daughter, Linda Armstrong, made a commercial for Eyelea while attending a drug study seminar in Chicago last December. (Contributed)

“My first visit lasted six hours,” Crawford said. “They drew blood, did a cardiogram and there was the brightest lights you’d ever want to see. Dr. Morris looked at me and said ‘You know you’re blind’ and I said ‘What?’ I couldn’t believe it cause I could see.”

Crawford hadn’t noticed a change in her eyesight. Her daughter, Linda Armstrong, accompanied her that day and couldn’t believe it either.

“While we waited I asked Mother to read the eye chart on the wall,” Anderson said. “Not the little bitty or large letters, but the great big ones. When Mother couldn’t read them, it blew my mind. How could her vision be so bad and me not notice?”

For 28 months, Crawford participated in a drug study with Eyelea, developed by Regeneron. She received injections in both eyes and underwent numerous exams. It wasn’t until she and Armstrong attended a seminar in Chicago that she truly realized she was a “guinea pig.”

Crawford said five patients were selected for a commercial.

“I don’t know if mine will air, but I’ll get a tape. All that matters is if being a guinea pig helps save someone else’s vision.”

Because she was diagnosed early, she has 40/30 vision in her right eye; her left has 20/30. She follows up with Morris every six months.

Margaret Harrill, retina specialist of Alabama study coordinator, said years ago nothing could be done for the disease.

“These new treatments are cutting blindness due to AMD in half. Once the damage is done, it’s not retroactive, so it’s important to seek treatment as soon as the symptoms begin. Mrs. Crawford was a wonderful patient and responded well to the treatments.”

If you have a parent or sibling with ADM, you are at risk. Read more about AMD prevention and treatment at Maculasurgery.com.

Mollie Brown can be reached at dmjhb1@bellsouth.net.