Mike is a tinkerer. A mechanical engineer by training, he traveled the world working (including in R&D) for a rubber company. He retired after 42 years and moved on to home projects like welding, fixing up old cars (including a 1963 Corvette), and outfitting a 1955 Schwinn bike with a belt drive that makes his rides through canyons to fly fish smooth. But all that changed three years ago at the end of the fishing season.
“I was having trouble seeing the fly in the water,” says Mike. He made an appointment with his eye doctor who referred him to a specialist. In the meantime, his symptoms got worse. “I couldn’t read a map, a book or a computer. I couldn’t thread a fly on the hook. Couldn’t weld,” he says. “Everything went to hell. It gets you down after a while.” His mother had macular degeneration, and that is what his first doctor initially diagnosed him with as well. But the specialist discovered that he had diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes and the leading cause of blindness in adults in the US. It is caused by damage to the retina’s blood vessels. For Mike, he also had unchecked high blood pressure that caused bleeding in the back of his eyeball.
“My eyesight going bad let me know that I was diabetic.” A trim, active man whose weight hasn’t varied much in 35 years, he was hardly the stereotype of a type-2 diabetes patient. And his blood pressure was also consistently good in the past. His health was so good, he rarely went to a doctor. “Now I have learned to go to the doctor at least once a year,” he laughs, noting that he has also cut out sweets, watches his carbohydrates, and is on a stationary bike every night to manage his condition. “Life changes,” Mike says in a deadpan that could be Zen or cowboy.
He also gets treatments for his eyesight .“Being able to thread a fly and weld...everything is fun again.” As soon as he could, he went back to work—tutoring school children, volunteering at his church, welding, fishing, and even engineering. He now works part-time for an engineering firm, doing control work on pasteurizers and specialized equipment at the federal Mint and building a giant water meter system for oil field. “I get to work on such fun stuff Seeing clearly makes your whole day better.”