The Reality of being an Interpreter with APMPPE
by: Melanie Frye, EIPA 4.1 - NIR Interpreter Coordinator
It was between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2019 when I realized I couldn’t see. It wasn’t total inability to see, though it felt that way. It was dark spots that looked like floaters, that used to float then go away, but this time they were constantly there – unmoving. I was scared. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I was also afraid for about the first week to tell anyone because this was one of those things that people might think you’re “making it up” or “that couldn’t actually be happening”. Well it was. Through all of this, I was still interpreting. I had quickly come up with ways to cope – my left eye was worse so sometimes I just closed it and only used my right eye and the spots were in the very center of my vision so I could turn my head to use my peripheral vision instead of head on. A week or so into noticing the spots, I decided it was time to tell someone. I was afraid but I told my mom and husband what was happening to me. They had no answers for me, but they were beside me. I decided to attempt to make it through Christmas then figure out what was wrong with me.
I made it to December 26th. The morning after Christmas. I was so upset because I struggled through Christmas Day trying to figure out how was the best way to hold my head to watch my nearly two-year-old daughter open her presents, host our whole family, and prepare a meal for everyone. I was starting to allow thoughts to creep in like “What if I’m going blind?”, “What if one day I won’t be able to see my daughter’s beautiful face and what she looks like when she grows up?, “What if we have another baby, and I can’t even see what they look like at all?” I called my regular optometrist and began explaining what was happening to me, they said it sounds very serious and weren’t sure their office would be of any help. Then I called two friends who worked in the field to see if they knew who to call. One of them referred me to a retina specialist near my home. I called and got a same day appointment.
Acute posterior multifocal placoid pigment epitheliopathy – APMPPE for short. My spots had a name, and it was frighteningly long.
According to rarediseases.info.nih.gov, APMPPE is an “acquired, inflammatory eye condition affecting the retina, retinal pigment epithelium (pigmented layer of the retina), and choroid. It usually affects both eyes and is characterized by multiple, yellow-white lesions in the back of the eye. The condition can significantly impair visual acuity if the macula is involved. APMPPE typically resolves on its own in weeks to months. While the cause is unknown, about a third of cases appear to develop after a flu-like illness.”
My retina specialist indicated that sometimes steroids were prescribed, but they weren’t 100% proven to end symptoms faster. He also wasn’t sure what effects would be lasting once the lesions healed. It was hurry up and wait for about eight weeks.
Once my lesions healed and the APMPPE was no longer “active”, my specialist was able to fully assess the lasting effects it will have on my vision. My spots are gone, but I am left with distortion that causes straight lines to look wavy and some blurriness – my left eye is worse. The lasting effects are due to scars left on the retinas from the lesions. When both eyes are open and working together, they fill in the blanks for each other, and I can see mostly normally with them both open. I still see my specialist for continued monitoring of the effects. I never took any down time from interpreting through it because I was always able to work effectively, even while the APMPPE was at its peak.
I hope this can serve as encouragement to someone. If you notice anything about your health, no matter how crazy it may sound or seem to others, seek help.
This blog has been prepared for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for medical advice. Please consult your physician regarding your specific situation.