Originally posted on April 11th, 2015:
Two weeks ago, I visited the state of Oregon. While driving along the beautiful coast, my son and I stopped at Yaquina Head Park and toured a remarkable lighthouse.
At the end of an educational lecture, we were able to climb a tight stairway inside that led to the top of the lighthouse. On our way down, my son stopped to take a picture of the spiral staircase. I thought his picture eerily resembled an eyeball! (You can see his shoes at the top.)
The day after I returned from my vacation, I had an appointment with a top eye specialist. Before seeing the doctor, I was given a few tests. A technician manually checked my field of vision; it was tiring for me to concentrate and look for tiny flashing lights. Afterwards, she drew pictures from her results to map my “blind spots.”
My appointment did not yield any new information to treat my dry eyes, unfortunately.
The specialist recommended that I try plugs in my tear ducts again. Plugs never helped, and I still had two that were inserted years ago.
This ophthalmologist then told me that my dry eyes were a result of poor tear film. I asked him if I also had Blepharitis (eyelid irritation), and he said that was secondary, a result of not having enough lubrication.
My first big surprise was to find out that I needed new glasses! I was never informed after cataract surgery that my vision could change again three years later.
At first, I was embarrassed to think that perhaps some of my fogginess was because my glasses needed to be changed. But I paid a lot of money for this appointment, so I was glad that I was given such a thorough eye exam.
But I wasn’t expecting to hear the more shocking news that followed.
He told me that the pressure in my right eye was very high and there were visible indications of glaucoma damage. He gently told me to get an appointment at my HMO with a glaucoma specialist – not just a regular ophthalmologist. And he told me not to wait.
I left his office and sat in my car crying. I waited until I felt well enough to drive. When I came home, I crawled into bed. I was devastated.
I didn’t really want to share my upsetting news with anyone, but then I received a call from my friend who had recommended this specialist.
I told her tearfully, “You know, you probably saved my vision – I don’t know how to thank you!”
My friend was very comforting. She acknowledged that I’ve had a lot of challenges to go through since my divorce and my parents’ deaths. I was very grateful for her.
It was almost 4:00 pm and I decided to call my HMO to schedule an appointment. The sooner I got that appointment, the better. It was a Friday afternoon before Easter weekend, so I didn’t expect much.
The lady on the phone said, “There aren’t any ophthalmologists working next week; they are all gone for Spring break.” I thought she was kidding when she said Pediatrics would be covering that department.
I told her I was very concerned about my eye pressure and wanted an appointment with a Glaucoma specialist. She said, “You will not be allowed to see a Glaucoma specialist. Only patients who are not responding to conventional treatments are allowed to see one. Any of our eye doctors can treat you.”
I said, “Well, what if this gets worse before I see a doctor? I don’t want to have my eyes permanently damaged!”
Then she asked me, “Are you in pain?”
I answered, “I’m always in pain. I have dry eyes.”
Her reply was laughable. She retorted, “Well, honey, just put in artificial tears until your appointment.”
I took a deep breath. There wasn’t enough fire in me for steam to come out of my ears when I heard that one.
But sometimes, God can appear in moments that seem like coincidences.
Suddenly she said, “Oh! I see that there is an appointment available and it’s only in a week and a half. It just so happens that it is with our only Glaucoma specialist – so you are very lucky.”
I marked down the appointment for April 16th.
My eyes were still dilated and the light outside was painful even with my dark glasses on.
I was overwhelmed trying to grasp the things the eye specialist told me. My head was spinning with a zillion questions: Did he say I had Glaucoma for sure? Was the damage he saw permanent? If my next appointment was in 13 days, could my eyes get worse? Was I was going blind? How would I adapt and manage that?
I was spiraling down into depression. It was too much!
Two weeks later, I saw a glaucoma specialist. She ordered a battery of tests and then sent me a message. She completely disagreed with the first doctor and said she saw no evidence of glaucoma. Her recommendation was that I come back in a year to have my eye pressure checked.
I let the outside specialist know what my HMO eye doctor said.
He responded with this, “I am pleased your pressure was lower and symmetric on that day. Often there is a delay in diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma due to fluctuations in pressure, just as hypertension may not be diagnosed on a day when the blood pressure is normal. I would recommend that you be evaluated at least every 4 months, not just with pressure checks, but also with quantitative perimetry and ocular coherence tomography for measurement of retinal nerve fiber layer thickness. Ultimately, if you do have glaucoma, one will see a progressive deterioration in those studies.”
I advocated for myself and made sure that my HMO would follow this outside specialist’s recommendation by thoroughly checking my optic nerve in 4 months. As I result, I have an appointment scheduled in July.
I love puns, so I’ll start with one here.
All of this was a real “eye opener.” I was so down when I went to see the outside specialist. I wasn’t expecting worse news about my eyes and couldn’t handle hearing I had another eye disease.
But then I realized that worry and anxiety didn’t serve me in any way.
One benefit from that appointment was that I had new glasses, which helped me see more clearly. As a result, I felt a lot better.
I went from total panic, to complete gratefulness. I was able to do so many things with my eyes. I relied on to drive, illustrate, play tennis and edit music.
I decided I could accept my eye pain and somehow find a way to live with it.
© Judy Unger and http://firstname.lastname@example.org 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.