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“Routine Eye Exams” for the Irrational Paranoid

This is a guest post from Brian, a friend of mine, who shared this story with me and a few other good friends last week. Once I stopped laughing, I asked if I could post it. I hope enjoy his ability to laugh at himself as much as I did.

I had my annual eye exam today.  Doctors recommend everyone have this done at least every 24 months after the age of 40, unless you have a family history of eye disease. I do. My entire maternal side of the family either has had or does have glaucoma.  Because of this, I have been especially diligent to have my eyes checked.  I’m 43, and I’ve been going at least once a year since about 1998. 

I also go through life grappling with paranoia and irrational fears.  I am well aware of the spiritual problems that these fears represent. Please enjoy my plight purely for the humor value…I’ll be open for counseling later.

About eight years ago my optometrist noted that I had developed peripapillary atrophy (or PA), a slightly pale area circumferential to the optic nerve.  When he told me of this anomaly, I recollect needing to lie down in the lobby where a very nice lady gave me a sucker. 

My doctor felt pity for my situation and, just to alleviate my concern, ordered some sort of test that measured retinal blood flow.  He was mistaken.  Ordering additional medical tests cannot possibly alleviate my hypochondriac tendencies.  It only makes things worse, especially when the test involves injecting some kind of green dye into one’s veins and being told “it will pass through your body within the next few hours.”  It came back normal.

Ever since the PA discovery, my routine eye exams are preceded by about two weeks of steadily-increasing anxiety.

I spend many hours flipping through web page after web page of eye-related stuff. 

I read dozens of research abstracts. 

I get three different ophthalmology journals. 

I compare the findings of one study with another. 

I know the names of parts of the eye that you’ve never heard of.  I’m pretty sure I could pass optometry school with an 80% grade.  

I actually googled “field vision test online” and found a website that let me practice clicking the mouse whenever I saw a flash of light in my peripheral vision. 

Yesterday, the day before my 2010 annual exam, I actually asked my wife, “What do you think I should wear to tomorrow’s appointment”?

Determined to get a good’s night sleep, I meditated over some Psalms before retiring. 

I arrived at the [city name] Eye Institute exactly thirty-eight minutes early.  Now, the [city name] Eye Institute is the finest place of its kind in this part of the region.  There are over 40 eye doctors and specialists there.  I decided in 2005 that I would only receive the finest care, even though I have nothing wrong with my eyes.  Every time I’ve been there, I have been at least 20 years younger than any other patient.  I think the staff is always excited to see me arrive because for once they don’t feel like they are a geriatric care facility. 

Before I entered the facility today I read a little more from the Bible and thought of brave men like David and Paul.  Could God give me that kind of courage?  I was counting on it.

The field vision test went fine.   They then checked my vision.  It’s still better than 20/20, even at 43.  So far, so good. 

Then, they dilated my pupils and asked me to wait about 15 minutes for the doctor.  Man.  That is always the hardest part.  I thought of my children, naturally, and my wife.  I thought of how little I’ve actually accomplished in my life thus far and how many regrets I have with this and that.  Vowing to do better if God preserves my vision, I wait patiently as my pupils grow larger and larger.

I heard my doctor talking with someone in the hall.  She giggled a little.  Good!  She’s in a good mood.  I had prayed that God would cause her to be encouraging to me, regardless of the outcome.  This was a good sign. 

Then, I heard her in conversation with another doctor and the topic sounded serious.  This is me they are talking about!  I’m sure of it! 

 “It’s time for me to see Brian, the glaucoma suspect. It’s always difficult to reassure a patient in Brian’s situation,”  I imagined her thinking. 

After all, this is the doc who remarked “your eyes are only a little worse than normal” four years ago. That put me in a panic that I can’t describe.  My wife thinks I misunderstood because my doctor’s first language is French.  So, I actually recorded my visit with her last year secretly, so that I could listen over and over again to exactly what she said. Serious. I recorded it with a micro recorder in my shirt pocket. 

Finally, she entered the room.  She told me my field vision test was normal. 

I shared with her a funny blog that I found online regarding this test…I had printed a copy.  She asked where I got it.  I told her I was googling the field vision test. 

She said, ”Why?”  (I’m thinking to myself, why wouldn’t everyone research the field vision test?) 

Then, I handed her a copy of a study that I found offering evidence that statins seem to offer neuroprotection against glaucoma.  I wanted her opinion. 

She asked where I found it. 

I paused.  “I did a little research.”  She was a little surprised. 

During the exam, she said “your eyes look perfect.”   

Don’t play with me!  I know better!  

I retorted, “Is there any change in the peripapillary atrophy?” 

She leaned back…and paused.  “No, not at all.” 

I said “What do you think of my PA?” 

She said, “Nothing, it’s pretty normal.” 

I replied, “well, it’s normal if you’re Asian or myopic, which I’m not.” 

She kind of sat there. 

I said “I’m probably not supposed to know that, am I?” 

She laughed and said “no, probably not.” 

I knew I was busted.  I said, “Look, I want to be honest with you.  You probably need to go ahead and put in my chart that I have a lot of problems.” 

She laughed harder. 

My eyes are perfectly normal.  My blood pressure has returned to 117/75, and I am ready to finally exhale.

Wait…I think I see my dentist next month.

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