Longtime Glaucoma Patient in a League of Her Own

Feb. 23, 2013

At age 94, Marjorie Peters is as full of spunk as she was as a sports trailblazer in the first female professional baseball league during World War II.

Peters played from 1943-1944 in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) featured in the Tom Hanks’ movie A League of Their Own. The city of Greenfield native didn’t limit herself to just baseball. Peters also competed in tennis, biking and speed skating. “I have 18 trophies for various sports competitions,” she notes. Peters also has her own baseball card from her AAGPBL days.

“Back when I played ball, I had really good vision,” says Peters. In fact, with her sharp eyes and strong arm, the 5’2” 112-pounder pitched the first game ever of the AAGPBL as a member of the Rockford Peaches. “We lost that first game in 14 innings to the South Bend Blue Sox 4-3,” she recalls. Peters may have lost that game, but she never lost her drive or her focus on the importance of proper eye care.

As a decades-long patient of Eye Care Specialists ophthalmology practice in Milwaukee, Peters has been vigilant with her appointments and medications, especially after being diagnosed with glaucoma.

“Glaucoma is a disease where fluid pressure inside the eye is too high for the health of the optic nerve and thus damages how visual information is carried from the retina to the brain. The most common type of glaucoma is painless and progresses so slowly that most people don't notice symptoms for years—until severe permanent, irreversible damage has already occurred. Left undetected and/or untreated, glaucoma first causes loss of side vision and later possibly all sight. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the U.S., affecting more than four million Americans of all ages and races,” explains Daniel Ferguson, MD, Peters’ ophthalmologist and an eye surgeon who performs advanced drainage implant procedures to alleviate glaucoma-related eye pressure.

Peters decided to throw the “Sneak Thief of Sight” a curveball. Unlike many other glaucoma patients, she has definitely “gone the route” when it comes to maintaining her medication schedule. “I’ve been taking glaucoma drops for so many years. And, I make sure I never miss taking them. I only forgot once in all these years!”

Leading laser eye surgeon and partner at Eye Care Specialists, Dr. Mark Freedman comments, “The most common type of glaucoma is a lifelong condition that can’t be cured. However, with regular eye exams and continual management, we can usually halt further damage and prevent vision loss. This is accomplished with the use of prescription drops to lower pressure by either decreasing fluid production in or increasing fluid drainage out of the eye. We wish all patients were as diligent in using their drops and keeping their appointments as Ms. Peters. It would prevent unnecessary vision loss and suffering.”

Brett Rhode, MD, a partner at Eye Care Specialists and Head of Ophthalmology at Aurora Sinai Medical Center cites two potential hazards of having glaucoma, “In one study, glaucoma patients 50 and older were three times as likely to have experienced a fall in the previous year and six times as likely to have been involved in a car accident in the previous five years as people without glaucoma. Why? Because glaucoma can damage the optic nerve, leading to potentially dangerous narrowing of the visual field or "tunnel vision."

What’s the best protection against glaucoma? Daniel Paskowitz, MD, PhD, an eye care specialist with prestigious credentials from both Harvard and Johns Hopkins, advises, “Since glaucoma and other sight-threatening conditions often don’t exhibit early symptoms, regular dilated eye exams are important for anyone past age 40, especially if you have a sibling or parent with glaucoma, since your risk of developing the disease increases 5 to 10 times.” Paskowitz also stresses that you should follow your doctor’s recommendations and treatment plan if you are diagnosed with glaucoma. This plan may include the prescription drops mentioned above or, in some cases, laser treatment procedures which may be able to reduce or eliminate the need for drops.

Fortunately for Peters, her attentiveness has paid off—by protecting her sight, she has been able to maintain an independent lifestyle well into her 90s and only recently stopped driving. “I think it’s very important to remember your medications and to listen to your doctor,” she advises. “I love the doctors and staff who work at Eye Care Specialists, everyone is always so nice. They have taken good care of me.” And, Ferguson notes, “Ms. Peters has taken good care of herself. With a colorful history that also includes organizing a Milwaukee-based professional softball league, raising mink, working for Singer Controls, and spending time with her nephews and close friends, she has had quite a hitting streak in life.” Peters modestly reflects, “I’m a very fortunate person.”

FREE Booklets & Information
Encourage your siblings and other family members to be checked for glaucoma, especially if one of you has the disease. If any of you do not have an eye care specialist, you can call 414-321-7035 for a free educational glaucoma booklet and information about scheduling a comprehensive screening that includes ophthalmoscopy, tonometry (pressure), visual field, gonioscopy, and OCT laser scan testing. This screening is typically covered by Medicare and most insurances, and is available at Eye Care Specialists’ offices in downtown Milwaukee, across from Mayfair Mall, and 102nd & National Ave. in West Allis. They also offer information at www.eyecarespecialists.net.

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