Yesterday, I had my annual eye screening. In an endeavour to calm me as much as possible from the anxiety I feel about this annual check-up, I made plans so that it would be the same as my check every year. My dad drove me there, sitting in the waiting room while I faced my fears in the doctor’s office.
I have been going to the same eye specialist centre for 15 years. I’ve seen the same ophthalmologist the whole time and his orthoptist has been the same absolutely delightful woman. She does a super job of calming me down, checking my vision and eye pressure and popping in the dilating drops. And then she sends me off to see her boss so he can have a look at the back of my eyes.
‘The main event’ part of my appointment is always fairly similar and I am fine with that. I know what to expect, I know the order of things and I know that I will have an opportunity to talk about anything concerning me.
We start with my ophthalmologist asking me how I have been and what has changed in my life over the last 12 months. I mentioned that I had changed jobs and we had a chat about that for a moment.
Then he asks if there have been any changes with my diabetes in that period and is always pleased (as am I!) when I report on the mostly boring nature of my diabetes. At this point, he usually asks about my family and any recent travels.
And then, the eye exam. The lights go out, I rest my chin on the contraption and he spends a good 10 to 15 minutes having a look at my eyes, explaining what he is looking at, what he is looking for and, most importantly to me, what he can see.
Or – what he can’t see. I am always hoping that he can’t see any diabetes-related eye disease.
‘Remind me how old you are, Renza,’ he said as he turned the lights back on.
‘I’m turning 43 at the end of the month,’ I said, blinking furiously as my dilated pupils tried to get used to the suddenly bright overhead lights.
‘And you’ve had diabetes for 18 years, right?’ he asked.
‘Eighteen and a half…,’ I said.
‘There is absolutely no diabetes-related anything going on in your eyes, Renza. It is all good news from me. You should be really pleased.’
‘I am,’ I said, nodding. I could feel my breathing starting to return to normal, unaware until that moment that I’d been holding my breath.
‘Okay. So…I’ll see you in a year. Of course, come back sooner if there are any changes. But first, is there anything else you wanted to mention?’
‘Oh – yes!’ I suddenly remembered that I had written myself a note in my phone. ‘I have noticed that my eyes have been really watery lately – maybe in the last couple of months. I can’t go outside without tears streaming down my face. It’s a little better if I am wearing sunglasses, but not always.’
‘Let’s have a look,’ he said. ‘It could be a blocked tear duct.’
‘Wait – what are you going to do…?’ Panic was setting in again!
‘Just tilt your head back for a second and I’ll pop some drops in first. And then I’ll do what I need to do.’
I knew that it was not the moment to ask exactly what was going on. I also knew that he has been my eye specialist for 15 years and knows me and my anxieties. And I also know that I trust him completely! I could hear paper rustling – the sound of something sterile being freed from its package.
‘Renza, I want you to look right up over your head for a second.’ At that point, I saw the syringe. ‘Okay – in a second, you are going to feel some saline running down the back of your throat. Nothing to worry about.’
And at the moment I tasted the salt I realised that THERE WAS A NEEDLE IN MY EYE. AND I WAS AWAKE. And I was not screaming. Or in any pain.
‘That one is fine,’ he said. ‘Let me check the other one.’ And he repeated the procedure, again announcing all to be okay. ‘It’s all fine – nothing to worry about at all.’
‘Great,’ I said. ‘Um…did you just stick a needle in my eye?’
‘I will never say,’ he said, smiling at me.
‘I think we need to acknowledge this new phase of our relationship. I feel I have really grown as an eye patient.’ I said as I gathered up my bag. I thanked him for his time – but really I was thanking him for the awesome ‘report’ and the lovely way he deals with me.
‘I’ll see you next time, Renza. Everything is looking really good.’
I walked out of the room. My dad looked up from the magazine he was reading and stood up. ‘All okay?’ he asked. I nooded. ‘Told you!’ he said – just like he always does.
I smiled. ‘Guess what? I just had a needle stuck IN MY EYE.’ I told him. ‘Did you hear me? A NEEDLE STUCK IN MY EYE.’
I settled the account and made an appointment for the end of next year at the front desk and we got into the elevator. ‘I just had a needle in my eye,’ I said, this time quietly and mostly to myself.
‘And my eyes are all clear.’
We walked to the car. All done for another year.