Friday, July 20, 2007

Getting the Diagnosis

Getting The Diagnosis
What Are You Saying!
watercolor 8" x 12"

The room, with its dim fluorescent lights, seemed to be filled with a soft fog which swirled around the doctor. The shoulder of his white coat stood out, as did the side of his face. Lights reflected in his glasses.
Of course, I wasn't seeing too well, after having my eyes dilated, dye injected into my veins, and extremely bright lights flashed into my eyes. I was about to relax, thinking that the worst part of the visit must be over. My daughter came in to sit in a chair in front of me as the doctor looked over his papers.
I held onto the arms of the elevated examining chair.
The doctor assured me that my vision was good enough to pass the eye exam for renewing my drivers license. He handed me some brochures.
"You are going to lose your vision," he announced.
"What? What is he saying? This can't be happening!" I thought. I felt like my mouth was hanging open, all the way down to my feet, and my eyes were wide open, trying to comprehend. I tried to listen intelligently, but the words were not all coming to me.
"The good news is that there is a new treatment that has just been approved." I wondered how often the doctor made this same speech. He had the words memorized well. I just couldn't catch all of them. Maybe he would "replay" it for me.
"It involves an injection in the eye every four weeks." I could see my daughter grimmace and I caught my breath. He continued without a pause, "The bad news is that each injection is $2,000. And, you will have to come in to have it checked to see how it is doing, in between. Any questions?"
"Shot in the eye!" My daughter gasped.
"$2,000.oo a shot!" I gasped.
"We''ll have to think about that!" My daughter exclaimed. "What if she doesn't get the shots?"
"She will not go totally blind, but she will lose all of her center vision. She won't be able to drive, read, write, watch tv, sew, cook, and a lot of other things. The kind of AMD that she has comes on fast and progresses rapidly."
I couldn't scrape my mouth up off the floor to speak very well. I struggled to act brave, reasonably intelligent, and responsible.
"I'm just a retired teacher. I don't have that kind of money," I explained.
"I understand. But there are foundations that can help. You just need to decide what kind of treatment you want. Go home, read your books, and let us know," he said.
"You are not getting shots in your eye! That's gross!" My daughter said as we left, all the way home in the car, and continued through the next days.
"Lose my vision? What will I do? I can't lose my vision! A needle in my eye! That is worse than gross!" I tried to read the material, and went online to do some research on Wet Macular Degeneration. Everything else was blocked as I tried to grasp what was happening.
My mouth did start to function properly again, but I was still overwhelmed and shocked.
I had always had 20/20 vision.
In 8th grade, I wanted to look as smart as other students who were getting glasses in our school. I convinced a great-aunt to take me to the eye doctor. I could see the chart just fine, but I purposely told the doctor that I was seeing something else, or acted as if it wasn't clear. After all, if I were to get glasses, I was sure that the teachers would give me better grades if I looked smarter! What a shock when the doctor, at the end of the exam, announced that I had 20/20 vision and didn't need glasses! I was so disappointed. I was sure the doctor must have detected every fib. I finally got reading glasses to read grade books and attendance sheets almost 40 years later.
When I was about in 5th grade, there was a radio program from Dallas where people could write in questions and someone would look up answers, then answer them on the radio. I wrote in to ask the meaning of my name. The person read the answer saying that the name was Italian and meant "blind". I remembered this as I searched for information on AMD. Maybe that was predestination.
I also thought of a great-aunt who had gone blind due to cataracts, before many people were getting cataract surgery. I'm sure that they didn't operate because she was a widow with little money. That was so sad, to think how people, even in the hospital and nursing home, would steal her things, with her sitting right there. And worse to think that it could have been prevented with cataract surgery.
Still, I didn't want to consider a needle in my eye, or someone cutting on my eye.

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