As her ophthalmologist, Dr Paul Beaumont enters her room in the nursing home, 102-year-old Norma Tory puts down her book – a biography of Australian poet Dorothea Mackeller – in anticipation of the eye injection that allows her to continue her passion for reading.
The centenarian, whose bookshelves and cupboards are crammed with biographies, literary classics and the odd Agatha Christie mystery, regards her regular eye injections as a lifeline.
Norma has wet (neovascular) age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and the treatment provided by Dr Beaumont over the past four years has helped her maintain functional vision.
It’s because of these eye injections that she can still read, watch television, and see the faces of her two children, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
So, every six weeks, like clockwork, Dr Beaumont and his ophthalmic nurse, pack a medical kit and travel from his Mona Vale surgery to Norma’s nursing home in nearby Avalon, on Sydney’s northern beaches.
Norma is bedbound. Visits to the ophthalmology clinic would require ambulance transport. So, the visits by Dr Beaumont are the only way she can continue to receive the sight-saving injections.
“I couldn’t do without them, could I? It’s very nice of him to come,” Norma told Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA).
“I like sensible books about artists. I’m currently reading about Dorothea Mackeller. I’ve just read the Secret River series (an historical trilogy) by Kate Grenville.
Norma, who is also hard-of-hearing, explains that she also sees well enough to be able to read the captions on her television, which keeps her entertained in the evenings.
AMD is the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in Australia. One in seven people over the age of 50 have signs of the disease. AMD is diagnosed through an eye examination – and that’s exactly how Norma’s AMD was discovered in 2019; during a routine visit to the optometrist.
As her son David explains, Norma had wet AMD in both eyes. While she is legally blind in her left eye, her right eye responded to treatment.
“In the beginning, we would take Norma to Dr Beaumont in his surgery, and he would do all the tests and the injections but, in September 2020, Norma unfortunately had to come in here (to the nursing home) … so Dr Beaumont decided to do the injections in her bed,”David
On the Right Track
Dr Beaumont, who founded MDFA in 2001, said it is “critically important” to continue treatment. For someone like Norma, who is completely immobile yet still mentally sharp, “the alternative – blindness – is unacceptable”.
“Being in a nursing home and having a lot of your independence taken, at least if you can see, you can watch TV, you can dial your phone and you can read books, read the paper – it keeps you in contact with the world.
“She reads two books a week, so I know I’m on the right track,” Dr Beaumont said.
Norma’s son, David, agreed.
“It’s enabled Norma to continue reading, which is her great passion and her only real link – apart from her family visiting very regularly – with the outside world. She reads about two books a week, and they’re good books… and we discuss them and talk about them,” David said.
In doing so, he (Dr Beaumont) has saved her sight. But he’s also saved her life in a way because she’s able to read and have a continual interest in the world. It’s wonderful.David