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Women with rare eye disease needs medical care

“She barely complains. I’m the ball of stress,” says mom

GoFund me account set up to help with medical expenses

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A few years ago, Meghan-Marie Durham could see just fine. She was an active student at Pickens High School who loved to sing in chorus and choir. She worked in Big Canoe and did humanitarian work like going on mission trips to the Dominican Republic. 

Now Durham is navigating the challenges of a rare eye disease that’s causing her to lose her vision. She had to spend her senior year of high school at home; she can’t drive; and had to quit her job. 

“She can’t see at all out of her left eye,” said Durham’s mom Shavon, who is on disability and doesn’t know where to turn for help. “And now her right eye is getting worse. I don’t know what to do and feel like we’ve only got a little time to do it.” 

The problem started about a year ago when Meghan-Marie found out she had cataracts in both eyes. She had the cataracts removed but woke up one morning after the surgery and couldn’t see out of one eye. The doctor discovered she was bleeding behind one of her eyes. The bleeding would clear up, but returned four other times over the next five months. Meghan-Marie was eventually told she would have to undergo an invasive surgery called vitrectomy. 

“That was to make sure her retina wasn’t detached and get rid of the blood,” Shavon said. “The doctor kept saying she was so young to do such an extensive surgery, but it was the last month on insurance and we went ahead and did it. The good news was that the retina wasn’t detached, but we found out she had a rare eye condition.”

The condition is called pars planitis, an inflammation of the narrowed area between the iris and the chorid that can cause cataracts, retinal detachment, or fluid in the retina. It can be associated with auto-immune diseases like multiple sclerosis, lupus, and sarcoidosis. Shavon said her daughter needs bloodwork that would help identify which auto-immune disease she has, but that she isn’t insured and they can’t afford it. If they can pinpoint the disease and treat it, they could prevent her from going blind. If they don’t, she could be permanently blind in both eyes.

“She turned 19 and Medicaid dropped her,” said Shavon, who also has a son with autism. “I begged them to keep her on. It’s going to be like $800 at the rheumatologist to have that bloodwork done.”

Despite failing vision Meghan-Marie keeps her chin up.

“She’s a good kid,” the mom said. “She barely complains and is upbeat. I’m surprised but I’m so proud of her for that. I’m the ball of stress.” 

Meghan-Marie has a GoFundMe account set up to help with medical bills. The account is listed as “Meghan’s Story (medical bills).”