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  • Annmarie Throckmorton, M.A.

Did Not Like Me Or Just Drumming Up Business?

My first visit this week with a new optometrist at Gailey Eye Clinic was surprisingly unpleasant. I had been looking forward to new glasses for the past several months but my Humana-Medicare/EyeMed (social security senior benefits through Medicare) allowance of $375 dollars toward frames, lenses, and lens options was not in effect until the new calendar year of 2019. Before I went in for my appointment, I called both Humana-Medicare/EyeMed and Gailey Eye Clinic to double-double check that they had my benefits on record because in previous years Gailey Eye Clinic complained that they could not find my insurance benefits in their "system", and I wanted to sort out any confusion before I was there in person. I hoped the visit would go quickly, smoothly, and that I would soon have a new pair of glasses. I had picked out the glasses that I wanted a few months ago.

However, when I got there Gailey Eye Clinic informed me that although just a month ago I had had a $375 per year allowance for new glasses, this year Humana-Medicare/EyeMed allows me only $50. That was a massive reduction in benefits, and so I did not buy glasses this year.

Then the new optometrist brought a transcriptionist in with her to my exam. Since I had never seen this optometrist before I do not know if this was her usual procedure, but in my experience only doctors who are giving personal physical exams bring in a transcriptionist, as a duenna or chaperon, to reduce any legal liabilities. At any rate, the optometrist's transcriptionist diligently typed everything the optometrist said and typed nothing that I said. If it had not been so annoying, it might have been amusing.

The optometrist noted that both of my optic nerves are "tilted". I have never heard that before, not in fifty-plus years of eye exams.

"Most optic nerves enter the eye straight on, like a cable pushed into a styrofoam ball perpendicular to the surface. In some eyes, the optic nerve enters at an angle, leading to a tilted appearance. This occurs most commonly in nearsighted people (myopes)." (Sorry I misplaced the source.)

I was never myopic but rather I was far-sighted for most of my life, so I asked the optometrist if being rear-ended by a truck going 35-40 mph, while I was stopped in traffic, could have caused this damage to my eyes. The optometrist said no curtly, she did not want to discuss it further, and I did not press the issue as I could see she wanted nothing to do with a potential legal matter.

Although her printed exam record indicates that she discussed my eyes, their condition, and their care, the only other thing the optometrist actually discussed with me was cataract surgery. She cautioned me that my cataracts will continue to get worse. The old optometrist last year told me that my cataracts would take a long time to grow to the point of interfering with my vision. He had added that my cataracts were hardly worth mentioning, and I remember being very relieved about that. I told this new optometrist that I have no one, no friend and no family, to help me through any surgery so I could not have cataract surgery. She ignored that objection and pressured me to consider cataract surgery. She sternly said that when my cataracts impair my vision to a certain degree then an optometrist will put a note in my file that I should not drive so that it would be on record if I caused an accident, she said that the optometrist might also contact the Department of Motor vehicles to withdraw my driver's license.

There is no social mechanism in place to help me with either the loss of vision or the loss of my driver's license, so this was a very unpleasant interaction. I felt pressured to have cataract surgery under threat of loss of my driver's license. Lasik surgery did not go well for me, so I actually do not want to have cataract surgery unless absolutely necessary. The optometrist would not rate my cataracts on a scale of 1 to 10, she just said, "You can still drive." Her pressure on me to have cataract surgery was particularly unsettling because I experience no sensation of even having cataracts.

A uneasy thought followed me out of this unpleasant visit with the optometrist: was this sour-faced, unsympathetic optometrist just trying to drum up cataract surgery business, or is she one of many, many unknown people in Bloomington/Normal, Illinois who my brother Peter set against me with his lies at Alcoholics Anonymous? No way for me to know, but her behavior toward me was very unpleasant.

Caption: 21st Century Optometry Office

by Annmarie Throckmorton 2019

I took this photograph after the unpleasant interaction with the optometrist

caused me to look more closely at the context in which it occurred.

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