It was 1993. One year into my first real job, the first time with real medical benefits.
I needed a new prescription for eyeglasses, so I found myself at an optometrist. After he did the usual dial thing with the lens machine (“Which is clearer, 1 or 2?” repeated like 20 times).
Then he told me about the spots he saw in my eyes, and asked me if I had seen spots or floaters. Maybe. He explained what he thought he saw was signs of diabetic retinopathy and referred me to a retinal specialist.
In a nutshell, one of the prolonged effect of diabetes is formation of un-necessary small blood vessels on the retina, so small they easily burst, causing spots or floaters. More damage can occur. Much more.
I met with the first retinal specialist who described the treatment- laser eye surgery. A laster beam is used to scar up the tiny blood vessels.
I got a call that my appointment for the first surgery would need to be rescheduled. When I showed up, Dr C was not there. I was told he had died unexpectedly in a car crash. Dr M. did the first two rounds of laser surgery. Then he retired. Dr S. did the next several treatments, until he said they had done all they could.
I do not remember the procedure all that well. They gave a local, and beyond that first pin prick, there was no feeling. The laser was pretty much a beam of light.
Dr S. said he felt like it had been effective. I lost some peripheral vision, and my night vision got worst. But the floaters were gone, and my eyesight was stable.
Over the next 18 years, I return every six months; the dilate the eyes, look at at, and scribble in my thick file. Then they say it is stable, no change.
Somewhere in there Dr S moved to Chicago. Now I see Dr J.
That experience was a wakeup call for me to get more serious about my diabetes management. Until then, I was fortunate, and being active, did not deal with any issues. But the thought of something taking away my eyesight? That was serious. That was my work, my life. I started blood testing, watching my food more. I eventually switched to an insulin pump.
Now it is 2013. My prescription sunglasses broke a few months ago, and I was told I would need to see the optometrist to get a new prescription. I was glad, because it had seemed my left eye was a bit more blurry than my right. I thought it was from during the summer when I had been trimming some bushes, did not watch where I was going, and jabbed a branch really sharp in my left eye.
My appointment was the last day of 2013. They vision tests showed my vision was 20/20 with my glasses in the right, and 20/25 in the left, but the assistant had a hard time twisting the dials to make it any better. So the doctor came in, dilated my eyes, and did the light shining exam thing.
And 20 years later, a simple appointment to measure my eyes for a prescription again turns out to be something else. He told me I would need cataract surgery, probably in the next few months. The blurriness in the left eye was the beginning of the frosting over of my lens.
So in 2014 I am facing what I was told is routine eye surgery. I am having to weigh a decision of doing it sooner before my COBRA insurance ends in March, because (from what I can tell) the deductible is less than what I will get under a new ACA Health plan (which seems like a roulette wheel of choices now).
The parallels of that experience 20 years ago are a tad eerie.
But do not f*** with my eyes.
I need them. I have a lot left to see… and do.