The Eyes Have It


I’ve tried to keep up with things here, but as I’ve learned, when your vision is poor it makes every task tedious. So I promise that as soon as my vision improves I’ll get back to responding to any comments. In the mean time, please know that I read and enjoy every response posted here and on my other blog. I feel so honored and blessed when people take time out of their busy day to respond and remark on my blogs. It’s amazing how encouraging and positive my fellow bloggers can be and I’m very humbled by the kindness of complete strangers.

It’s been a difficult week here. As much as I’ve been fortunate that I was allowed more freedom to move around, my vision has been poor at best. Granted, I still have one good eye, but I’ve discovered that anything that requires any sort of accuracy really needs the benefit of better vision. It’s actually easier to see if I close my defunct eye than if I try to do things with it open. For some reason the skewed vision throws my depth perception and equilibrium off. Because spring is coming on like wildfire I tried to do some weeding and organizing in my gardens. I fear I’ve probably pulled up as many flower plants as I have weeds for lack of seeing things clearly. Oh well! My gardens were getting a bit over-crowded! I have to laugh at these little things because if I don’t keep my sense of humor I get very down.

Friday I had my (almost) three week follow-up at the surgeons office. I was very much expecting a quick look-see and expected him to tell me that all is progressing as planned and he’d see me in a few months. This sort of thing just takes time to heal and I get that. Well, that did not happen. I’m not sure if anyone reading this has ever had a thorough retinal exam, but for those who haven’t let me tell you that it’s one of the most unpleasant things I’ve ever experienced … and I’ve had a lot of nasty medical stuff done to me!

I think people who are very myopic tend to be almost over-protective about their eyes. Perhaps because we are already visually impaired, we have a deeply rooted appreciation for the vision we DO have. Granted, we are forced rely on glasses or contacts to see, but all we have to do to know how impaired we truly are is remove them. As much as I’ve always loathed having to wear glasses or contacts and have done so since a very young age, at least they make it possible for me to see well. And that’s a good thing. Still, I never take my vision or less than perfect eyes for granted.

Having experienced annual vision exams since I was in third or forth grade, I’m used to an eye doctor peering into my eyes from inches away from my face. The only other doctors who get that close to your face are dermatologists, ear, nose and throat specialists and dentists and I have to say, it’s a bit …. well, disturbing. But having someone poke you in the eye at close range is downright creepy. The protective, instinctual reaction is to pull back or away when anyone gets too close my eyes. It’s only natural not to want to be poked in the eye! Well during a retinal exam the doctor uses an instrument to press down hard on your eyelid as he gets as close as possible and peers into your eye with an outrageously vivid bright light. When he’s not dictating to an assistant who sits on the sidelines frantically scratching medical jargon into my records, he tells me to look in various different extreme directions. But no matter how hard you try to comply, it’s never enough.

Doctor: Look to your right.

I do

Doctor: Look MORE to your right!

I do

Doctor (as he presses even harder on my sore eye) : OK, now look even MORE to your right!

Huh? OK, I’ve had enough of this game, pal. Get away from my face!

Unfortunately, this process drags on for several long minutes before the lights come back on and he sits down to flip through my records. He’s left his fancy welding headgear on, which doesn’t do much to convince me the torture is over yet. The good news is that things are healing. The bad news is that my retina has sprung “another leak.” This is of great concern and must be corrected¬† … immediately. Whoa! No gentle lead up to it, no go home and think about it, but it must be done now. With very little detail I’m told he will laser the leaky area right there, right now. (Well, truth be told, in a few minutes) I’m told that by doing this repair now he hopes to avoid having to do another hospital procedure, because apparently the leak is in a “dangerous” place. I’m too stunned to even ask what “dangerous” means, but now I’m really scared. I don’t want more complications and I especially don’t want to have to go through another operation and two weeks of laying on my face.

I’m moved to the laser room and watch as the assistant sets things up. Remembering that the laser part of my surgery was the most painful part of the procedure, I ask if this will hurt? She gives me what I’ve learned is their standard answer: “I don’t know. Huh? You do this procedure all the time and you don’t know? I’m baffled, so I probe more. Turns out, some people feel it (pain) and others don’t. It depends upon where and how close to the nerves the repair is. Since she was sitting in the room with us taking notes I have to imagine she knows exactly where the leak is, but she’s non-committal. She sticks a paper dot above my right eye “To make sure the doctor zaps the correct eye,” If I wasn’t having an out-of body experience I might have found this funny, but I didn’t laugh. She hits my eye with a couple more “numbing” drops. I try to tell myself this is reassuring, but my brain isn’t buying it.

The doctor comes in, turns the lights off and they begin to lock and load my head into place. My head is literally strapped into an apparatus that holds it completely immobile. Once in place, the machine prohibits you from speaking or moving. There are “handles” on this machine that I’m told to hold and I feel around until I find them and latch on for dear life. The doctor then inserts a “lens” into my eye, which is really a device that holds the eyelids out and away from the eyeball. It’s not uncomfortable, just cold, wet and weird. Without further adieu, the doctor sits down, twists a couple of knobs that move my head a few minuscule increments higher and turns the laser on. I’m scared, but neither the doctor or his trusty assistant has said a single word of reassurance or comfort. Perhaps empathy is forbidden?

I’m not sure why, but I always thought laser lights were red. They’re not, they’re green. Initially, all I felt was heat as the laser beam zapped my eye. Zap. Zap, zap. Zap. He worked in a pattern. Suddenly, it hurt. It wasn’t horrible, but it was unexpected nonetheless. However, I couldn’t move or react to anything I felt because I’m strapped into this machine that prohibits you from moving. Remember, your natural inclination is to pull back and I can feel my head pressing against the strap that’s wrapped around the back of my skull. Zap, zap-zap. OUCH! Now it REALLY hurts! I began to see a pattern. When one beam hurt a little, it would be followed by several more zaps that hurt more and more each zap until eventually he moved to a different spot that didn’t hurt. I whimpered in pain, but my discomfort was ignored. I never knew if a zap was going to hurt or not and I soon began to shake with fear and revulsion. Finally he hit a spot that I could not bear and I cried out loudly through clenched teeth. Although I could not “see” him clearly, I could see his outline on the other side of the laser machine and I watched in humiliation as he stopped and turned to look at his assistant who was standing slightly behind him. Did he roll his eyes at my discomfort? I don’t know, but his only words to me were, “We have to get this done. If you’ll just bear with us we’re almost finished.” No, “Are you OK?” “Do you need me to take a little break?” No empathy was spoken or shown to me.

The doctor went back to work and I sat there, tears streaming down my face through the rest of the procedure. It hurt a lot. Not that it mattered to them. When he finished he congratulated himself on a job well done and left the room. His assistant stayed behind, writing notes in my chart. At some point she passed me a tissue and I told her how much that had hurt. She remarked that some people DO feel it more than others. That was it. No, “I’m so sorry,” or “Are you doing OK now?” Nothing. When she finished her notes I was shuffled down the hall to another technician who proceeded to take a series of pictures of my now throbbing eye. Although I wasn’t sobbing, it was pretty obvious that I was shell-shocked and crying.¬† The tech was a cheerful fellow, but he never once asked if I was OK; he simply proceeded to do his job.

When the picture taking was finished, the tech gave me a card and told me to go out to the receptionist and make an appointment to return for a follow-up visit in 2-3 weeks. I went out to the desk (still crying) and waited as an elderly gentleman proceeded to ask the receptionist several questions. From what I could tell, it was going to be several minutes before she could finish with him and get to me. There were five or six other staff members milling about behind the desk, but nobody asked if they could help me, little own ask me if I was OK.

I left. I simply walked out of the office without making my next appointment. In pain and humiliated, I fled to the elevator half thinking someone from the office would come after me. I was wrong. I drove myself home shaking and crying. I have had a lot of medical procedures done to me, but I’ve never encountered such uncaring, unemphatic medical staff in my life. I’m not a wimpy person or a drama Queen. I seldom ask for help unless I really need it. But as someone who worked in the dental profession for a long time I find it unconscionable that an entire office could be so callous and cold.

I will see this treatment through to the end, but I will never use this doctor for anything ever again. And I will never refer anyone to him either. He may be highly skilled, but he has absolutely no bedside manner. That’s unacceptable.