How much fun can one person have at the eye doctor's office?
|I’ve got a leaky right eye. It doesn't hurt, but it’s a nuisance so I made an appointment with the ophthalmologist. The receptionist told me that I'd need a driver because I'd be blinded to some nebulous degree; my Aunt Pat and Uncle Don graciously offered to taxi me and watch my 10-month old son, Jonah, while I was in with the doc.
Early one snow-squally morning, we all arrive at the giant, megaplex office. Thank God they have a children’s playroom, because Jonah has been walking since he was 8 months old and can be quite the handful if left to his own devices.
When they call my name, I hand Pat the stocked diaper bag and breathe a prayer that Jonah avoids pitching a Class-A fit. Jonah, thankfully, doesn’t see me leave the room because he’s too busy trying to stuff a germ-ridden playroom toy into his mouth. So far, so good.
First I’m led into a room containing what looks like a dentist’s chair. There the nurse sits me down and performs the standard eye chart test. (Is there any sighted person who can’t read that big-ass “E”?) Then she tells me the doctor will be right in. I sit there waiting: calm, ready to be examined, and altogether ignorant of my fate.
Shortly thereafter, the doc himself appears: Ophthalmologist Extraordinaire, maybe 30 years old, looking slightly bored. He takes an obligatory glance at my chart and then asks why I’m there.
“My right eye is leaking,” I tell him. “Actually, it’s watering right now,” I add helpfully.
He nods, turns, and writes something on the chart. I can tell right away that this doctor was not head of the Bedside Manner 101 class at the University of Ophthalmology.
After a few more questions, he repeats the eye chart test and tells me that he's going to put numbing drops in my eyes. The word ‘numbing’ is a bright, clanging alarm bell. I don’t think my eyes have ever been numb before, and I really don't want to participate in any activity that’s going to require loss of feeling in my ocular region.
"Are you going to do that test where there's a loud noise and a puff of air blasts into your eye?" I ask hopefully. I’ve had that test before, and the puff of air scared me but it didn’t hurt at all.
No explanation or alternative answer. Just no.
Quickly, as if guarding against any possibility of my escape, he guides my head into the metal torture-chamber-looking contraption. A machine comes whirring toward me and I valiantly attempt to stay calm. Hold my breath. Trust. Suddenly I can tell that something is touching my eyes, but I can't really feel it so it's not that bad.
I sit back in the chair and he again writes something in the folder.
Out of nowhere, slowly but with ever-increasing speed, I become Juliet after drinking her poison. I'm shaking...my vision is clouded with angry, furry, marching black clouds. My hands join my eyes in the heavy slump of the numb.
"I don't feel so well," I manage to whisper, whimpering like a 4 year old. "I'm very dizzy."
I break into a sweat and begin to swoon. I ask for the garbage can and lean over it quickly, ropes of my instantly saturated hair hanging limp against its blessed coolness.
The fight begins: Puke vs. Pass Out. I can feel the darkness take me but my stomach wants to heave first. Puke and Pass Out battle, locked in combat. With a mighty effort, Puke is abruptly victorious and I vomit.
Eventually I lift my head, a string of drool stretching from the can to my trembling lip. “What’s happening?” I gasp, convinced I am dying.
Ophthalmologist Extraordinaire hands me a lukewarm, wet towel for my forehead and pauses. He mutters a Greek-sounding medical phrase and settles himself more comfortably on the stool. I am not looking at him but I can clearly envision him frowning. Sighing. Checking his watch.
He repeats the strange medical term and adds blandly, “You’ve had a very rare reaction to the stress test. Usually it happens to males, not females.”
Females? Am I a laboratory rat?
Mr. Pass Out comes knocking again. I concentrate on breathing deep and begin to feel a little better. Meanwhile, the doc has snuck up alongside of me and is adjusting my chair. Without warning I am guided backward until I am practically lying down. The black clouds regroup for another storm, so I resist this new position and try to sit up.
“I’d rather sit forward,” I protest weakly. I remember feeling faint in elementary school, the school nurse telling me to drink some water and put my head between my legs. “May I have a glass of water?” I add pitifully.
He starts, as if from a reverie, and nods. “Sure.” He returns about seven minutes later with a very full, heavy glass of almost-hot water.
Then he tells me he’s going to leave me alone for a little while to relax with my hot water cocktail and my garbage can, because he has a few more things he needs to do but wants me to rest first.
As he exits the room it occurs to me that I have no idea whether ten minutes or one hour has passed. I perk up my ears for the telltale sound of Jonah’s wail, but hear instead a blessed silence.
When the doc returns, he smiles vaguely as though nothing has happened. I survive the eye dilation drops easily enough because this time I suggest that he kindly explain to me what he is going to do before he does it.
After this, he flatly states that next on the agenda of fun-things-to-do-in-the-doctor's-office is a procedure they like to call STICKING A NEEDLE IN YOUR EYE. "I'll inject saline into your tear duct opening,” he explains, “and if you can't taste the saline, I'll know the duct is blocked." In the distance, I hear Jonah’s distinct cry and wonder if he can somehow sense his hapless mother’s distress.
Gulping, I ask what happens if the tear duct IS blocked.
"At a later date, I’ll perform surgery and make an incision through the bone in your nose to open up the duct."
I feel a sudden rush of empowerment.
There is no way this man is going to stick a needle in my eye, let alone perform surgery on me.
I ask if people ever just live with this leaky-eye thing. The doc shrugs. "Sure they do," he says. Without any hesitation whatsoever I tell him that I am going to be one of those people. I have taken control of my situation, and it is good.
We end the appointment after the doc mentions that I need to come back in a year for a check-up. I nod and rise from my chair to answer Jonah’s crescendoing cry of distress.
Inside, though, I am laughing - albeit weakly - for I am certain that I will never again willingly encounter him in any kind of patient/doctor capacity.
Cross my heart and hope to die.