Saving sight: Local man talks experience in a drug trial to fight blindness


by Melissa Swan

Posted on October 15, 2013 at 6:13 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – At the piano, David Liebert plays great, gospel tunes with his eyes closed.  He knows the melody and notes by heart.

But a few years ago, if he did concentrate on the black and white keys he saw something that wasn’t right.

“You’ve seen slide marks in the snow – this is the way this looked,” He said as he pointed to the piano keys.

While driving, Liebert noticed a difference too.

“My side of the road, the right lane would be elevated three or four feet.”

Liebert even noticed it in stores telling his wife, Brenda about odd looking people.

She tells me, “He said look at that lady back there, she’s about 14 feet tall.”

Brenda Liebert set her husband straight but both were sure there was something wrong with his vision.

They soon discovered the distortions are the signs of wet macular degeneration, a chronic eye disease that in its advanced stages forms a blind spot at the center of your field of vision.  It’s the result of abnormal blood vessels at the back of the eye that leak fluid.

When David Liebert was handed his diagnosis he was also given an opportunity.   He became part of a drug study.   His progress and experience were followed every month.   At the time Liebert thought possibly the drug maker could gain knowledge from his response to the drug that would help someone else.

And that’s exactly what happened.

Several years later, 3 drugs are used as the primary medication for wet M.D.  They are injected into the eye.  The drug is delivered right to where the fluid is leaking.

Seventy-eight year old Vince Bellucci gets injections for macular degeneration.   His symptoms were much like Liebert’s.     He says one night while driving he thought, “Whoever painted this road much have been drunk because everything I’m looking at is curvy.”

The medications have stabilized his vision and his eyesight has not slowed him a bit.

According to Dr. Howard Lazarus of the John-Kenyon American Eye Institute, the treatment of wet macular degeneration has changed dramatically in the past decade.

He says, “Like night and day.  Before we started using these injections (in 2005) patients would continue to lose vision.   A large percentage of the patients were untreatable.”

Today, Liebert travels the county talking about the drug that saved his sight.   He won’t divulge the name of the drug he took because he says different people have different reactions.  But for him, the drug halts the wet M.D. and his vision in the affected eye is better than 20/20.    

The annual Vision Walk is scheduled for Saturday, October 19 on the Big Four Lawn at Waterfront Park.  The walk begins at 11 a.m., registration is at 10 a.m.