Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A disappointing visit to the eye doctor

My glaucoma is essentially unchanged for more than a dozen years now.

Every year or so, however, I have to prove this to the eye doctor by taking a visual field test (yes, I've written about this before -- and here's the follow up to that first 2009 post). Yesterday, it was time for me to go again.

After the visual field test, one of the eye doctor's assistants gives me drops to dilate my pupils so that the eye doctor can more easily shine a bright light in my eyes and better see (he says) my optical nerve. I think he's just punishing me for not needing surgery, but, then again, I'm paranoid.

Unlike on some past occasions, I did not fall asleep during the visual field test.

Because I know I will be dilated, I make these appointments for as late in the day as they'll let me. So I come in tired. And they have to turn the lights down in the examining room so I can see the little flashes of light I'm supposed to track with my clicker thing -- and without moving my eyeball. (They give the test one eye at a time; you get to wear a nifty patch over the other eye.) With my tired head resting on something in a dark, quiet room... is it really surprising that I sometimes doze off?

I didn't want to doze yesterday (it messes up the results and gets the eye doctor all excited about surgery for nothing) so I kept up a steady stream of patter during the exam.
Oh, good, the eye patch. D'yer want me to talk like a pirate now? Aaaaaarrrrrggggghhhh.

I don't know why you need this test to see how bad my peripheral vision has gotten. Just ride in the car with me and my wife when I'm driving some time; she'll tell you all about it.
The young lady who administered the visual field test was the one who put the drops in to dilate my eyes. Then she pointed me to a back waiting room where I was to await the doctor. I was looking forward to looking at the New Yorker for awhile until my eyes could no longer focus -- but they had no back issues available yesterday.

It was just as well. The doctor was ready for me sooner than I expected.

A young, pretty resident came out to fetch me in. "I'm Dr. Jones," she said, and I noted that her voice was as lovely as she was. And those were shapely legs in high heels sticking out from under her lab coat, too. I noticed.

The doctor obviously noticed, too.

He's ordinarily a rather brusque man (surgeons generally are). That doesn't bother me as much as it bothers some people, but I do pick up on it -- and I quickly picked up on the fact that, yesterday, he was far more charming and attentive than usual. He shined his bright light in my wide-open eyes, then let the resident take a look, too. He called up my history on the office computer terminal (this is a high tech practice) and showed the younger doctor pictures of my visual field tests going back more than a decade. "Zimmerman," he said, "had the definitive paper on low-tension glaucoma 30 years ago in the Journal of -- well, no, you don't have to look that up. Why don't you just do a review of the literature over the last five years on the subject and we can talk about it when we meet -- Thursday?"

"Oh, no, Doctor, I won't be in Thursday. I'll be in Aspen."

"Aspen? I love Aspen." (Doctors can say things like that; they actually have been to all these places. They can afford to go.) "Why are you going?"

"It's a conference. Women in Ophthalmology."

"Will you be there next week, too? I'm going out there next week." (See what I mean about doctors?)

"Not unless you'll let me be gone from here for two weeks."

"Well, no. Are you going to do any hiking while you're there?"

"Oh, yes," she said. "I signed up for a special woman's hike."

"A special women's hike? What's that?"

I know a set-up line when I hear it. Quickly, I tried to think of possible responses that might work:
[Sexist] It's just like a men's hike except you look at store windows instead of mountains, valleys and trees.

[I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar] It's just like a men's hike, same trails, same distance -- only we do it in heels. No man could hope to survive.

[Hear Me Roar, Part II] It's just like a men's hike only if we lose the trail we can ask for directions on how to get back.
Her actual answer was something about the pace of the hike, but she resisted any temptation she might have had to say something like "we go slower because we actually pay attention to our surroundings."

Soon thereafter, the doctor realized I was still sitting patiently (get it?) in the examination room chair. He had to stop flirting long enough to dismiss me. (By the way, I hasten to add, there was nothing inappropriate or suspicious or creepy about the doctor's flirting. You'd probably not have noticed; I don't know whether the attractive young doctor even realized the doctor was flirting. I only did because I usually see him in brusque surgeon-mode.)

But I said that the visit was disappointing and I haven't explained why (except from the doctor's standpoint since I'm still not a candidate for additional surgery).

It was cloudy and gray in Chicago yesterday; it wanted to rain, but couldn't quite do so while I was out. The gloom suited me fine; it's actually painful to walk out in bright sunlight with dilated pupils. Still, as I walked down the street, mothers, seeing my eyes, pulled their children a little closer. You can't help but look a little crazy when your eyes are like that.

I got home, though, without incident, a little wobbly (being dilated and out of focus affects your balance) and my eyes hurt, but there was nothing seriously wrong. Long Suffering Spouse asked me how things went and I gave her the good news.

Younger Daughter was listening. "But did you ask?"

"Ask about what?" I was genuinely confused. What did she think I was supposed to ask about?

"The medical marijuana, silly."

How disappointing. I did forget to ask.

But Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn still hasn't signed HB1, the newly passed medical marijuana statute. Maybe by my next visit....

Updated and corrected August 1, 2013: Gov. Quinn is expected to sign the bill today. Section 10(h)(1) of the act includes glaucoma among the 'debilitating medical conditions' for which medical marijuana may be prescribed. Well, whaddaya know about that?

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