“AMD Can’t Keep Me Out of the Pilot’s Seat!”
Age-related macular degeneration won’t ground Harry McNeely Jr.
Harry McNeely Jr., 89, has no plans to slow down. As the founder of Meritex, a real estate company in St. Paul, he still (legally!) drives to the office each day. Off-hours, Harry enjoys many hobbies: tennis, biking, golf, fishing—and flying planes! While his energetic lifestyle would be admirable for any octogenarian, what’s even more remarkable is that Harry has age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
“About five years ago, I noticed straight lines appeared fuzzy in my right eye,” he recalls. “My internist at the Mayo Clinic referred me to Dr. Sophie Bakri in the ophthalmology department. She determined I was suffering from wet AMD caused by abnormal blood vessel growth in the back of my eye.” Although the dry form of AMD is more common, it can convert to the wet form, which is faster moving and can quickly lead to vision loss if it’s left untreated.
Harry’s doctor treated him with a new AMD drug, which is injected into the eye (after it’s been numbed) about once a month. The impressive results: “In 2009 I had 20/150 vision in my right eye,” Harry says. “Now I have 20/30 vision!” Harry’s message to others: “Be aggressive when seeking treatment. Some people accept things as they are and don’t try to change the outcome. That’s not the best attitude when dealing with AMD.”
Early treatment is best!
Mayo Clinic ophthalmologist Sophie Bakri, MD, urges people to stay ahead of AMD by having regular eye exams. “Patients who are treated earlier tend to have better vision because the blood vessel causing the problem in wet AMD does not have a chance to scar—and scarring makes the disease harder to treat,” she says.