've always hated going to the Eye Doctor. Years of dashed hopes and upset tears after leaving these offices have left me weary and distrustful.
Years of visits with a few impatient, ignorant doctors who sometimes won't give the time or effort to a patient who's also Deaf. Once the lights go out for examinations, I've lost my ability to lipread, thus all communications cease.
"Make her look UP!" one doctor snapped at my mother as she shined the ophthalmoscope into my eyes. She devised a way to communicate in the dark, she'd touch the top of my head if I needed to look up, touch my chest to look down, shoulders to look in that direction, etc.
It felt like eons staring through the retinoscope while the doctor switched lenses. "Which one is clearer?" he'd ask as he switched between lenses. I'd have to ask to show me the lenses again because I swear there wasn't any difference between the two, much to their dismay.
The summer after High School graduation I was scheduled for Cataract surgery on my left eye. I was excited! I'd be finally rid of these "coke bottle thick" glasses and I'd be able to drive I dreamed! My eyesight improved enough to get thinner lenses, but still was considered "legally blind". No driving in my future, I was crushed. I had my right eye operated on after University, again I had some enthusiasm and hope that maybe this one will work. Nope, still blind as a bat! More tears and disappointment.
Throughout my adult life I'd research and pursued solutions to my eye problem. Visit after visit, I'd bring photocopied and written notes on the latest "improvement" that doctors have studied. "How about Lasik" I'd inquire, holding up a stash of literature I'd gathered. "It would improve only to where your current prescription is, no better" he'd reply. Another disappointment, my glasses only corrected my vision to 20/100. "How about Intac Corneal Implants?" I'd ask another doctor. "Your vision is too severe to work". "But they've worked on people WORSE than me" I protested, waving a printout of a University's study. "It won't work!" he'd snap back.
My last eye doctor visit was in 2009. This one was different! The machines were newer and computerized, gone was the old clunky retinoscope and instead the newer machine did the measuring automatically. It even snapped pictures of the insides of my eyeballs, I never seen THAT before! The doctor's demeanor was friendlier, he took his time to explain everything, and made sure I understood him. He explained why all my previous research and suggestions wouldn't work. He said that because my eyes are bigger than normal, the retinas were stretched thin and any surgery would be risky and could result in losing the rest of my vision. He compared it to Saran Wrap, when you start to pull and stretch the wrap, tears start happening all over, same idea for my eyes.
But more importantly, he gave me a diagnosis on my eye disorder. After forty years of living with the simple assumption of "It's just bad eyesight", I finally have a NAME and a prognosis.
It's called "Gyrate Atrophy", a rare hereditary disease of the eye's retina & choriod. Degeneration of these causes near-sightedness, cataracts and progressive loss of vision. He's not completely sure, but in about 20 years I could possibly have tunnel vision, or complete loss of vision.
So, yeah I haven't been to the eye doctor in over 4 years. Now it's not just because of past experiences, but what's the latest progression in my loss.
Am I avoiding it, possibly, am I worried, nope. Just gonna live each day as it is, learn new adaptations as the need arises & ride it out.
So..."Here's looking at you kid" *raising coffee mug*