The curious affect of AMD on a man of many trades.
Tony Mauro is a complicated man. He is a chemist, an engineer, a researcher, a writer, an advocate for the homeless, a father (of eight), a grandfather (of 12), a great grandfather (of two), a New Yorker, a scientist, an inventor, a Gemini, a Southern Californian, a successful serial entrepreneur, a painter.
Of all his vocations and avocations, he felt the diagnosis of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affected him most strongly as a painter. First diagnosed at age 70, Mauro says, "The eye thing really shook me up because of my painting. But I decided to use that."
While his doctor took OCT (Ocptical Coherent Tomography) scans and fluorescein angiograms to monitor the success of Avastin injections in treating his AMD, Mauro decided to use his paintings to see things for himself. "The scans are fine, but I wanted to see something I could relate to. I couldn't really even see the OCT scans," he says.
He began a series of self-portraits. "I wanted to monitor my progress," Mauro says. "If something were to go wrong, I'd see it in my paintings."
He placed "scientific controls" on the project, monitoring distance and light. He would photograph himself before each injection, then close his "good" eye, and paint what he saw. He did the same thing again 11 days later. Early paintings showed the telltale purple-black spot of AMD blocking out half his face; as time went on, the spot became more transparent, then turned a lime green. After a year, the spot was virtually gone.
The paintings have made Mauro somewhat of a celebrity in AMD circles; he devotes quite a bit of time talking to people about the disease and helping others cope. He will be the featured guest at the *Macular Degeneration Partnership's Vision Pavilion at this year's AARP Expo in Los Angeles, where an exhibit of his self-portraits will be on display. MDP hopes the portraits will remind AARP attendees that early detection and treatment of wet AMD can make the difference between saving vision and going legally blind.
"When you see someone with AMD, they look normal; you can't tell they have this disease," Mauro says. "The paintings really help people understand."
The painting shown here is the first in Mauro's series. Visit the Vision Pavilion at AARP Expo to see the path of improvement in the self-portraits.
Posted September 2011
*The Macular Degeneration Partnership became a program of the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, UC Irvine in 2016.