In Sight

Prevent vision loss from macular degeneration.

Gale Lemerand grew up poor in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula during the Great Depression. But he possessed a keen sense for business that helped him succeed professionally.

Dr. Dunn and Gale Lemerand

“After serving in the Air Force, I held several sales and management positions,” recounts Gale, 86. “Then I became a fiberglass installation subcontractor in the Chicago suburbs. I was fortunate to be surrounded by great people and was able to diversify geographically. I ended up with 100 locations in 27 states.”

In 1995, Gale sold his fiberglass company to Masco Corp., a Fortune 500 company. He took a five-year earn-out and worked for Masco until 2000.

“Right now, I’m in the restaurant business, which is pretty tough during COVID-19,” Gale says. “I’m chairman of the board of Stonewood Holdings, which has nine restaurants in Central Florida, and I’m a 50/50 partner in Houligan’s family sports bars.”

Gale was 40 when he started his first business and began expanding. Part of that growth was in Florida, and he liked the Sunshine State so much he relocated to Daytona Beach in 1978. Gale appreciated living in an area with many experienced physicians when an eye problem suddenly developed.

“I’m a pilot, so I get eye exams every six months,” he discloses. “About a week after an exam in 2008, I woke up in the morning and couldn’t see out of my left eye. It was all black. I went back to the eye doctor and on the television in his waiting room was a program about macular degeneration.

“When I saw the doctor I said, I bet I have macular degeneration. At first, he said, Oh, no, you can’t have that. Then he gave me a test, and sure enough, I had it. He recommended Dr. Dunn.”

William J. Dunn, MD, is a board-certified, fellowship-trained retina specialist at Florida Retina Institute. He performed additional testing on Gale and confirmed he had age-related macular degeneration, or ARMD.

Types of ARMD

There are two main types of ARMD, the exudative or wet type and the nonexudative or dry type. The dry type is more common; the wet type is a progressive disease. Both types affect the central vision, which is needed to see detail.

Wet macular degeneration is characterized by abnormal blood vessels that leak fluid or blood into the macula, the center portion of the retina. Dry macular degeneration involves the thinning and wasting away of macular tissue.

Dr. Dunn’s examination of Gale revealed that he had wet ARMD in his left eye and dry ARMD in his right eye. To treat the conditions, Dr. Dunn prescribed injections of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor, or anti-VEGF, to close up and help seal the leaking blood vessels causing the wet ARMD.

“I feel blessed that the wet ARMD hasn’t gone from my left eye to my right eye.” – Gale.

“The injections reduce the formation of new blood vessels,” Dr. Dunn educates. “We also wanted to prevent or limit the size of the scar tissue that can result from untreated wet ARMD. Unfortunately, Gale came to us rather late in the course of his leakage, and it resulted in a stable but dry scar in his central vision.

“As a result, he has 20/200 to 20/400 vision in his left eye. We educated him about symptoms to look for in his right eye and asked him return to our clinic every three to four months.”

Symptoms of wet macular degeneration include blurred or distorted vision, a blind spot or blank area in the central vision, and the sudden wavy appearance of straight lines.

“We give our patients an Amsler grid, which looks like a piece of graph paper with a dot in the middle,” Dr. Dunn describes. “We instruct them to look at the dot with one eye covered and then the other. If they notice any wavy lines, they are to call us immediately because that can be a sign of active leakage or wet ARMD.”

In 2011, Gale noticed some symptoms of wet macular degeneration in his right eye. But Dr. Dunn promptly treated that eye and stabilized his vision.

“I’ve been getting injections at Florida Retina Institute for 12, 13 years,” Gale relates. “I got two injections of medicine in my left eye every six to eight weeks. Several years ago,
Dr. Dunn decided I needed an injection in my right eye – my good eye. I got one injection and haven’t had any problems since. Looking back, I haven’t had any injections since October 2019.”

Delayed Process

“If a patient has wet ARMD in one eye, the other eye will typically convert to the wet type at a rate of 20 percent per year over the course of five years,” Dr. Dunn reports.

But the anti-VEGF injections delayed this process in Gale’s right eye.

“I feel blessed that the wet ARMD hasn’t gone from my left eye to my right eye,” Gale states. “The prompt treatment Dr. Dunn provided and his good care of my affected left eye saved my right eye. It’s still dry.

“The prompt treatment Dr. Dunn provided and his good care of my affected left eye saved my right eye.” – Gale

“I have 20/20 vision with glasses in my right eye. I have some peripheral vision in my left eye, but I can’t see anything centrally. I can’t identify anything to speak of on the eye chart. Now there’s a light gray fog in my vision, whereas in the early days it was all black.”

Gale gives kudos to Dr. Dunn and his staff for their exceptional care and service.

“Dr. Dunn is very knowledgeable and has a wonderful reputation,” he asserts. “With the sale of my company, I’m in a financial position to go anywhere in the country for treatment. I did some research, and there’s no better eye physician in the country in my opinion than Dr. Dunn. I was really blessed to find him. He does a fantastic job.

“The staff at Florida Retina Institute is wonderful as well. They’re very courteous, friendly and professional. Many of them have been there for years, and since I’ve been going there for 13 years, they know me and I know them. Even the environment is great, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve been terrific.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photo courtesy of Florida Retina Institute. mkb
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