I recently went in to have my eyes examined, not for my vision, but for my overall eye health. Once you’re on the AARP mailing list, it’s a good idea to check this sort of thing on a regular schedule and like a lot of good baby boomers; I’m accumulating a list of fringe doctors to go along with my general practitioner. I’ve always considered myself to be healthy and I do take care of myself as best I can, but things can happen along the way.
I checked in at the front desk and in the two years that have passed since I’ve been to the eye doctor, the entire health care system has apparently been taken over by thieves and hoodlums. I had to show my health care card and a picture ID even though the receptionist greeted me by name and knew who I was. She scanned my license into their system along with my Blue Choice card, then handed me a form to fill out that was absolutely identical to the form I filled out two years ago. I filled in the blanks, checked “no” on everything else and handed it back. I also filled out about ten forms relating to my privacy and how I apparently have a lot of it, even though I just filled out a ream of forms with my personal information.
As I was sitting in the waiting room, I noticed a subtle new rule that has taken effect that is sort of interesting. When they call out a patient’s name, they can no longer use last names. The comedy that takes place when four older people named “Mary” stand up at once is priceless, as they all stare at one another as if Mary was a unique name in 1935. Upon seeing this collection of Mary’s, the nurse will fume a bit and then be more specific.
“Um … I’m looking for Mary H,” the nurse will then say and two of the Mary’s will sit down, disappointed that they weren’t the lucky Mary. It’s kind of sad, really—like watching the chubby kid stand around kicking the ground while everybody else gets picked first for basketball. The nurse will then sidle over to the two remaining Mary’s and try to discreetly whisper the actual last name but she eventually has to do this
so loudly, people who work in a sawmill could hear her. Meanwhile, health care hoodlums lurking out in the parking lot will ask how that last name was spelled.
When my first name was called, I scanned the room looking for anther Richard or two to rise before I got up, but I was the only one. I then stood up like Taylor Swift accepting her fourteenth award of the evening, looked shocked, covered my mouth and thanked God, all the other Richard’s that couldn’t be here and my fourth grade teacher who believed in me. I was then ushered back to the exam room where I sat for a solid twenty-five minutes before my doctor showed up.
I eventually got my eye drops and was sent out to another waiting room for a few minutes, so I wandered around and looked at eyeglass frames. I tried on a dozen pairs, some serious contenders and some just for fun. After about five minutes, I caught a blurry glimpse of myself in the mirror and I had gigantic black pupils—like an anime version of Jim Lehrer. I was trying on a pair of huge, chunky plastic glasses when my doctor came out and tapped me on the shoulder. “Are these me?” I asked sincerely before we went back to the exam room.
With my head in the chin rest of the phoropter, he scanned a searing white-hot light across both of my exaggerated eyes and had me look up, down, left, right and straight ahead. They don’t use the puff of air for the glaucoma test anymore, but rather they peer into the eyes with a smallish handheld lens and a different searing white-hot light. I miss the air puff. The new way made me feel I just stared into the sun. Twice.
“Freckle?” I asked.
“Yes … the freckle in your left eye. I just want to see if it’s the same size as it was when you first came here. If it’s bigger, well, that’s not good.”
Here’s the thing on the eye freckle (proper name, choroidal nevus) that I’ve apparently had since birth: It’s way back on the inside of my eyeball, invisible to the naked eye, and can only be seen with drops, magnification and a searing white-hot light. When they took a picture of it, I naturally asked to see it.
It looked like a Rorschach blotch behind my retina. When I saw the picture on the monitor, my eyeball was the size of a basketball and the freckle was a fraction of the size of the little hole that you use to put air in a basketball. It’s one of those things that millions of people have, which is why you should go and have your eyes examined to see if you have one.
I went back and talked with my doctor and we shot the breeze for a minute or two before I mentioned that I didn’t remember him mentioning that I have this freckle thing. He reminded me that they caught it about ten years ago when I came in with concrete dust in my cornea. I guess I just forgot about it, what with all the frantic eye washing that was going on before my eye hardened up like a deck footing.
I’m not the type of person who panics over irrational stuff. Even rational stuff barely nudges my panic meter, so an eye freckle is nothing. I’m only writing about it today to prod people out there who have normal, spherical eyes and good vision to check in with an eye doctor. You really should. It takes about an hour. Less if the doctor is on time.
So the exam went fine, but I needed new glasses because my reading vision changed slightly. I ended up with two new pairs—one pair of no-line bifocals for everyday and one pair specifically for using when I’m at the computer (anyone who wears bifocals will understand why).
My new everyday glasses are kind of retro looking (or so I’m told) and I like them. The computer specs are thickish Clark Kent units that I can toss around the desk without worry. The woman who fitted them thought they were sexy and masculine and that these should be my everyday glasses, but really—why would I need hot masculine glasses when I have this sexy eye freckle?