Three sisters support each other through eye disease journey

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "I think if I had to come down here alone, it would be really hard," said Sandra Mattson.

Most of the time, when 75-year-old Mattson visits Wills Eye Hospital to receive treatment for her eye disease, she is joined by her sisters. But they don't simply come for fun. All three have been diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

"I look forward to the ride down together," said Mattson. "We laugh and kid around about our grandchildren and it takes the edge off of having to deal with an eye disease that we didn't want."

Unfortunately, AMD was a disease each sister was genetically posed to face.

"We were very much aware of macular degeneration because we saw our mother deeply affected by it," said 79-year-old Angela Zager.

Each doctor's visit gives the sisters a chance to not only support each other during tests and injections, but also to reminisce about their mother.

"It's always nice to have the support of someone having the same symptoms," said Zager. "Not that you wish their symptoms on anyone, but it's the fact that you're not imagining these things, but they are very real."

Healthcare professionals at Wills Eye Hospital call the trio, "The Sisters," and liken their presence to that of a rock band.

"We've been able to keep them seeing and going down to the shore and taking care of all their many relatives and participating in life to the very fullest," said Julia Haller MD, Ophthalmologist-in-Chief at Wills Eye. "But it's a lot their positive attitude and also their partnership."

Dr. Haller says the sisters are lucky to have caught AMD so early. And while many treatment options are available, too many patients wait too long to get checked.

"It is the number one cause of decreased reading vision and legal blindness in people over the age of 50 in the United States," said Dr. Haller.

Thankfully, medical advancements at Wills Eye and the greater ophthalmology industry have caused the quality of life to be preserved in many cases.

"You know, we're all doing well and it's all because we got here early," said Sandra Mattson. "We drive, we read, we run around with our grandchildren. We had a great family and I think that holds true even to today."

To learn more about age-related macular degeneration or treatments available at Wills Eye Hospital, visit their website.

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