There are some folk who don't see the gem inside my rough exterior who might consider me a hot head. To which I say a hearty "bite me". But let this opinion be a caution that within this blog may lurk items of a venting nature or perhaps those which might be considered a rant. So be it. Proceed with caution. You have been warned.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Poke in the Eye

"I can't help you any longer with refractory corrections." This statement from my opthamologist was my abrupt introduction to the world of cataract surgery. Not a huge surprise in that I'd been warned that cataracts were growing somewhere the depths of wherever the Dr. looked when she turned that blindingly bright light into my eyes. Within minutes while I was still processing the information I had an appointment scheduled with an eye surgeon. There wasn't much concern about cost as my wife and I had embraced the philosophy of getting things repaired while we still had employer related health insurance. Having had several minor surgeries in the past and an introduction to some excellent pain killers - Hello Vicodin!! - I wasn't terribly concerned about discomfort but the prospect of having someone carving around in my eyes gave me some wakeful moments in the middle of the night.

At the surgical office I was shown an informative little film about cataracts and how they were treated. Evidently not created with a desire to allay anticipatory apprehension, this video demonstrated how an instrument is poked into the eye to suck out the natural lens and insert a synthetic replacement. (Does this description make your skin crawl? It does mine even now after the fact.) Then my eyes were filled with a variety of drops and I settled in to wait to see the surgeon. Some time later I was ushered into the little room for more waiting.

Sidebar - Waiting: As with any medical procedure the entire experience is peppered with numerous periods of waiting in a variety of locales descriptions of which, in an effort to convey some actual information, I will henceforth omit. Suffice it to say that between each and every procedure there is always a wait. But of course if you have had an opportunity to visit anyone in the medical profession recently you already know this. Why recipients of some of the most prolonged and expensive university educations available to man cannot figure out how to budget their time is beyond me. The only other profession that comes close to this inability to coordinate appointments with activities are cable TV installers and at least they let you know that they will "be there between 12 and 4" which naturally means 3:59.

But I digress. Next I was examined by the surgeon and actually what did I expect? Here's a guy who makes his living by a variety of invasive procedures on eyeballs and he's not going to say "Hey, there's nothing wrong with your eyes, now get out of here you animal!" No, he confirmed the diagnosis although he admitted that he was unable to confirm the first stages of macular degeneration noted in the chart by the opthamologist. He didn't preface this by saying "I have some bad news and some good news." but it came across that way - a spoonful of sugar as it were. Now I am presented with a bewildering list of choices. Do I want a replacement lens that "kind of" corrects for both near and distance vision at a cost of an additional $750 per lens. No I have worn glasses all my life, I won't have a problem continuing. I opt for lenses that correct most for distance vision as that particular prescription has been the one to burden me with amazingly thick lenses in my glasses. Do I want to try to correct my astigmatism with a procedure done at the same time as cataract removal that consists of making incisions in my cornea to reshape my eyeball - shudder! - no thanks - I have worn glasses all my life, etc. The nurse then tells me they will order two prescriptions for eye drops - one antibiotic and one steroid as she hands me a sheaf of instructions about pre-surgery and post-surgery activities. (Only later do I find that the antibiotic eyedrops; supplied in a bottle that is the approximate size of a hazel nut; has no generic and my copay is seventy five dollars.)

Next stop scheduling. For the last two hours I have been told by way of introductory film, nurses etc. that they will do one eye and then the other "two to four weeks later". So while setting up the dates I'm told that I will have the surgeries one week apart. Errr, how much of the other information you gave me doesn't apply? But it seems that my surgeon will be out of town for month and to avoid two pre-surgical physicals we're going for a one week interval. Oh yeah, and I have to have a pre-surgical physical. Normally I would panic at this news since they want to do the first surgery in a week and it is harder to get in to see my primary care physician than it is to teach a duck to tap dance but since I have an appointment that very week that has been rescheduled three times already, my hopes are up. So what happens when I arrive home? There is a message waiting from my PPs office that they will need to reschedule AGAIN!. I call the office and ask why my health is so much less of a concern to them then whoever they have been rescheduling me for. They have no reasonable answer. I point out my frustration in trying to get in for an annual checkup for over six months and explain that in good faith I told the eye clinic that an appointment for a physical had already been scheduled. I then ask if they can make a referral to someone who CAN see me. And lo! With the prospect of an insured customer absconding to another doctor they suddenly can squeeze me in. Amazingly at the "squeezed in" appointment I am called on time and the Dr. sees me within minutes. I am given a clean bill of health and am deemed fit to face the first surgery the following Monday.

Next blog entry: Eye Surgery Processing