Monday, December 9, 2013

Eyeball explosion

Last week, I woke up feeling like I had scratched my eye somehow. I called my pops, since he is an optometrist. He advised taking it easy--if I had scratched my eye, the pain should go away relatively quickly, as the cornea is the quickest-healing part of the body.

But by the next morning, the pain and light sensitivity weren't going away. (I'm sure my coworkers, when they saw me sitting in my office with my sunglasses on, thought I was hungover.) THAT, for future reference, is definitely not normal. If you experience these symptoms, call your healthcare professional STAT.

My dad called a fellow optometrist friend in Salt Lake to find out if he could squeeze me in immediately.

As it turns out, I had a virus that was attacking my eye and had already resulted in a corneal ulcer--basically a big, gaping sore right on my eyeball. My dad's friend had Serious Concern Voice, to say the least, and when I called my dad to report the news, he had Severe Father/Optometrist/Genetic-Predisposition-to-Panic Panic. See, left unchecked, this virus can result in permanent scarring of your cornea--as in, permanent damage to your vision.

Luckily my virus was caught early -- not early enough to save me from a few days of unpleasantness, but early enough to save me from any scarring on my axis of vision. I was sent home with a sample tube of medication right as the other symptoms (namely, your typical cold-and-flu season congestion, fatigue, and aches and pain) set in. I've spent the last 5 or so days in my house, unable to do much of anything other than put gel in my eyeball and swallow some ginormous pills. TV and computer screens irritated my eye, and reading for long periods tuckered me out. Skiing was definitely out of the question.

When you can't do anything but reflect, you tend to do a lot of reflection.

Here are some of my thoughts.

1. At the optometrist, I had the delightful experience of listening to a patient attempt to dicker over the cost of contacts, like they were a scarf at some flea market. The receptionist listened patiently, and then with increasing annoyance, as she explained that, No, you can't have two weeks' free supply just because

It became totally clear that this patient viewed her doctor not as a medical professional, but someone akin to the Comcast cable guy. How much can you get me for free? And if you can't get me that for free, well, I'll just take my business elsewhere! In fact, she probably would have treated the cable guy with a little more respect since you can't just wander down to Costco with a prescription for cable and get a better deal. No, when it comes to whether or not you'll get to watch this season of Keeping up with the Kardashians, you actually have to take or leave what you're offered. But when it comes to healthcare, well, there's always wiggle room -- amiright?

I am sort of sensitive to this to begin with, since my dad is an optometrist, and his tales of people trying to get the maximum for the minimum are pretty legendary. But people, if you want to treat your vision like a set of tires from Sam's Club, BE MY GUEST. Seriously. Just, if you would be so kind, have the good graces to do it in the privacy of your own home or car or at least the parking lot. I'm not going blind thanks to guy that you were too good to buy contacts from because you could save $10 online, so maybe save your bitching for a few steps outside his office.

It's just polite.

2. Speaking of the cost of vision care, eyeball medicine is expensive. Before insurance, a tiny 5 ml tube was over $300. After insurance, it was still around $120. (I'd like to work a "Thanks, Obama" in here somewhere, but I'm not sure this is the right place...)

At the Walgreen's drive through, the pharmacy asked me doubtfully, "Are you sure you want this? It's pretty pricey."

Hmm. Severe pain and eventual blindness, or $120. Dilemma.  



* For the record, I know that there are some people who legitimately could not afford the $120, and that is a rant for a different time.

But middle- to upper-class Americans, could you all just pull your heads out for a second and stop expecting professionals, whether they be attorneys or doctors or dentists or optometrists or whoever, TO GIVE YOU SHIT FOR FREE.**

Do you work for free? No? Then why do you expect someone who committed tens of thousands of dollars and years of their life to their professional training to do so?

If you want to roll the dice on doing your own divorce or your own taxes or buying your contacts from the same retailer from whom you get cheap DVDs or meatballs in bulk, that is completely your prerogative and it might work out really well for you. But please don't compare the cost of those services to the cost of having someone who actually knows what they are doing performing them. They are not the same, and it is an insult to imply otherwise. And if doing those things on the cheap worked out for you, it's not because you are better than people who paid the freight. It's because you are just luckier.

May your luck never run out.

** To family members who read this blog, and have gotten free contacts from my pops from over the years ... or friends who have asked for, and received, free legal advice from me in the past ... obviously, this doesn't apply to you. Friends and family get discounts. Everyone else, get your credit card number ready.


  1. ugh! Eye stuff sucks, and you never see it coming (get it?). My husband has had a whole lot of issues with it so we make sure to check in with the optometrist.

    1. It's seriously the worst :( Hope things go well for your husband!