Spring/Summer 2009Published on April 01, 2009
In 1983 I was 9 years old. I woke up one morning with extreme blurred vision in my right eye. I could only see light and could barely make out faces. Being only 9 years old I thought something was in my eye. My mother closely looked but could not see anything. That same day we went directly to our ophthalmologist in Fairfield, CT. After the doctor did some tests he determined that I had an eye disease called uveitis. I remember the doctor asking to speak to my mother alone. I knew whatever uveitis was, it was bad. After further blood tests and several appointments with specialists in NY and Boston, I was told that I may also have something called JRA, Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. The recommended course of treatment was steroid drops in both eyes. I was referred to Dr. Stephen Foster in Massachusetts. Unfortunately my family’s health insurance plan would not cover the appointment, and we chose not to see him at that time.
For 21 years of my life and under the care of ophthalmologists in Connecticut, I had inflammations, or “flare ups” just about every 4-6 weeks. I continued with steroid drops and was unaware of other treatment options. By age 11, I developed cataracts in both eyes. I was always a good patient and put in the drops as told by my local ophthalmologist. It was recommended that steroid eye drops were the best treatment at the time and in some cases still today. I never really truly worried about this disease because it seemed to me that it was pretty simple...have a flare, put in steroid eye drops. This theme carried on for 20 years.
When I was 29 years old I gave birth to the two most amazing little girls in the world, Allie and Emmie. They became my life, my joy and my utmost priority. When the girls were just a few months old, I kept thinking to myself that the quality of my night vision was poor and I was uncomfortable driving at night. I consulted with my eye doctor in CT on this matter and he agreed that cataract surgery would be a good option for me. When Allie and Emmie were a year old I had cataract surgery in my left eye. At first my vision was amazing, I had never seen so clearly without glasses in that eye. Unfortunately that did not last. After postoperative laser surgery my vision went from very good to horrible and my vision problem became very complicated and frightening. The inflammation was uncontrollable. Not only was I frightened that I would lose my vision, I was so scared that I would lose my independence and not be able to take care of my children. After searching on websites and remembering the name Dr. Stephen Foster from childhood I connected with him through www.uveitis.org.
After a long and thorough visit at MERSI, I was told by Dr. Foster very clearly that if I did not get this disease under control, I could have serious issues down the road. He explained that I needed immunosuppressant drugs like methotrexate. When I heard this information I was shocked. All I could think about were my two 20 month old girls and how I would care for them? I wanted to fight this. So did Dr. Foster. He explained that “inflammation cannot be tolerated!” I agreed. I wanted to be able to live an independent life, wanted to watch my children dance, smile and grow up. I was on board with Dr. Foster’s plan of attack 100%!
I have been treated by Dr. Foster at MERSI for over 2 years, traveling with my husband Chris from Connecticut every 4-6 weeks, and I am so proud to say that I have been in remission for more than 6 months…which is the longest I have ever gone without a flare in over 20 years! I am presently taking remicade infusions and methotrexate injections. These medications have not hindered my life in any way. I am forever thankful to OIUF for their research, education and online and in-person support services, and to Dr. Foster. If it were not for his passion, vigilance and expertise I would not have the quality of life that I have now.