At first, Maharaj, a Hindu priest in Queens, New York, was having difficulty reading street signs and numbers from a distance.
“I was unable to read from the Scriptures and do my sermon,” he said. “I could have done my sermon, but from memory.”
Maharaj developed diabetic macular edema, which causes blood vessels in the eye to leak, which leads to decrease in vision. He underwent several treatments, including steroid injections into the eye, which helped, but these injections needed to be repeated every few months.
His ophthalmologist, Dr. Szilard Kiss of Weill Cornell Medical College, suggested Maharaj try a newly FDA-approved implant that releases medicine for three years before needing a replacement.
“Iluvien-implant is a cylindrical metallic thing that inside it has the steroid that is slowly released,” Szilard said. “We numb the patient around the eye, we make sure everything is sterile, and then we actually stick a needle in the eye. And the idea of sticking a needle in the eye sounds very scary but the results sort of bring patients back because it works.”
For Maharaj, his vision was restored in a matter of days.
“That made me very emotional right away because at one time, when I met Dr. Kiss, I was thinking that I might lose my eyesight,” he said.
The implant is an outpatient procedure and only takes a few minutes. Most insurance companies cover the expenses.