I must begin this piece with a confession. I haven’t seen an ophthalmologist in about ten years. Hold on! Before you get the wrong idea, I really do care about the health of my eyeball and do not recommend a decade of not seeing an eye care professional. My left eye is prosthetic and needs periodic polishing. Since my husband works at a blind rehab center at Veterans Affairs I get my prosthesis polished by optometry residents when it needs it. And the optometrist at the blind center checks the health of my right eye.
My last ocular prosthetic was about twelve years old and it was time to see if I needed a new one. “What the heck?” said I, “Why not establish with a new ophthalmologist and get everything checked out?”
Some time in the first decade of this century I had surgery on my left eye, the one that’s the prosthesis. My lower tear duct was blocked and the lower lid was a little droopy. The droopiness was the result of loss of pressure in the tissues surrounding the prosthetic eye. The pressure loss is normal and it results in an artificial eye becoming a bad fit over time. That surgery was done by Dr. John Long who practices medicine with Alabama Ophthalmology Associates.
“Hi, this is Sue Martin. I’d like to make an appointment to see one of your doctors. I just need a general checkup on the health of my eye.” The person on the other end of the line must have wondered about the use of the singular noun but didn’t mention it.
When my name was called I commanded my guide dog to follow. We entered a room and I found a chair. Never mind that many years had passed since I darkened the doors of Alabama Ophthalmology they still had all my records. Next, I was shown into the exam room and took a seat. The first person in the door had the task of determining my visual acuity. She began with the “Can you see my hand move?” question.
Forestalling her I said, “The only person who’s ever been able to get a visual acuity is my husband who’s a low vision therapist. It’s 20/2000 in the upper nasal quadrant of my right eye.” She wrote it down, put drops in my eye, handed me a tissue and left.
The next person to enter the room introduced himself and I promptly forgot his name. His task was to check the health of my right eye. “The optic nerve is pale and cupped,” I said, as he began the fundascopic examination. I sat, with my chin on the chin rest, moving my eye as directed.
Following a long silence, “Are you sure you can see anything?”
Eventually Dr. Bains entered the room. Following introductions and a hand shake she sat down to review my record. “I see your husband is a low vision therapist at Veterans Affairs. Are you a Veteran? Could your husband work with you?”
I have no idea why it never occurred to me to mention that I, too, am a certified low vision therapist. Perhaps it’s just that I haven’t worked in the field for several years.
Dr. Bains’ questions caused me considerable mental gymnastics. “Why would I want to…” Then I got it. “Oh, she wants to know if I want to maximize my use of the tiny bit of vision I have.” Of course she did. That’s what ophthalmologists do!
I’ve been blind over thirty years. In those early days I tried to use my vision as much as I could. Then my orientation and mobility instructor said, “Keep your head up. Concentrate on what you can feel with your cane instead of what you can’t see with your eyes.” Good advice. And I took it to heart. These days I take whatever I can see and am thankful for it. But I learned long ago not to depend on my vision.
“Your prosthesis looks pretty good but I’d suggest you have it looked at. Have you been seeing the folks at Cox Ocular Prosthetics regularly?”
“Um, no, I haven’t seen them since they made the eye.”
“Well, at least you’re honest.”
A few weeks later I had a new eye made. It’s a fascinating process but that’s a topic for another post.
When the exam was over Dr. Bains must have shone her light on the floor because my dog, Kismet, pounced. See In The Dog House for reference.
“Is Dr. Long here?” I asked. “I have a present for him.”
“He’s not here but I can make sure he gets it.”
I handed over a signed copy of my book, Out of the Whirlpool” and departed.
The day after I got my new eye was one of my days to telecommute. When my husband, Jim, got home I said, “Keep an eye out for a surprise.”