Patient, doctor finally see eye to eye


I recently had the opportunity to visit my eye doctor. This particular visit was inspired several weeks ago when one of my contact lenses disintegrated in my eye. This turned out to be the last contact in my supply, which meant it was time to get a new prescription.

I always enjoy my checkups. My doctor—we’ll call him “Dr. B”—is a great guy.

I’ve been seeing Dr. B (albeit with slightly blurred vision) since I was in third grade. Having inherited my dad’s vision genes (classified under “Bat, Blind as a”), I am ensured of at least one checkup a year.

My appointment started with his assistant. We’ll call her “Donita,” because that’s her real name.

I’ve gone to Dr. B for 12 years, and few things about these exams have changed, including Donita. She always manages to make you feel like, hey, maybe this appointment really isn’t going to be so bad despite knowing I am going to get prodded in the eyeball a thousand times.

Eye appointments always start with a game of 20 questions: Do I swim in my contacts? Do I shower in them? Do I sleep with them? Do I forget to rinse before storing them for night? Do I forget to change them monthly?

I always answer no even though sometimes I’m lying. Perhaps this is why my contact disintegrated.

Then comes a traditional, time-tested round of Let’s Make the Patient Read Letters the Size of Ants.

The letters on the chart never change, but my answers always do.

However, I’m not completely sure Donita always uses letters from the Latin alphabet. There might even be a few Mayan symbols in there, which is why the entire Opthamologist industry will collapse in 2012. But I’ll never know; my eyes are terrible.

When we’re done with that, Dr. B comes in for his portion of the appointment. This is when it gets fun.

First, Dr. B suspends this dorky contraption over my face that is covered in hundreds of lenses, switches and levers. There must be a hidden webcam in the examination room that broadcasts live footage to a Web site only eye doctors can access, which they watch until they are lying on the floor, doubled-over from laughter because the device makes you look like a doofus.

That’s the only clear use I can think of for it.

Next it’s time to “check my pressure.” I don’t know exactly what this means, or what the purpose is, but it happens every time.

Here, Dr. B puts a drop of liquid the color of industrial-strength Mountain Dew in my eyes. After a few seconds, it feels like my eyeballs are inflating to the size of regulation volleyballs.

At any moment I’m expecting my pupil to pop off the iris and zing across the room, similar to a button springing from some guy’s shirt in a Looney Tunes episode.

(Note to any young, impressionable readers: the pupil is actually a hole. Therefore the likelihood of it popping off is slim. However, this is why we can’t help but close our eyes when we sneeze; otherwise, nasal mucus might come out of our pupils.)

Speaking of pupils, the climax of this visit to Dr. B began when he announced that it was time to dilate my eyes.

This is something that Dr. B does intermittently as a way to increase the suspense of visits. Again, he put—using great suspense!—another fluid in my eyes and then….

He left.

That’s right. He dripped in the liquid, spun on his heels and was out the door.

You see, once the drops have been applied to the eyeball, a sort of reaction takes place in which large amounts of carbon monoxide are rapidly produced in the form of fizzing, sputtering foam.

No, wait! That’s what happens when you combine baking soda and vinegar!

In my case, this liquid causes pupils to slowly (very slowly) dilate. As anyone who took Mr. Coryea’s sixth-grade science course knows, the larger your pupil, the more light gets into your eyeball.

So there I was in the examination room alone for almost a half hour, as it seemed to get increasingly brighter and brighter.

Finally Dr. B came back in to inspect the insides of my eyes. You would think, as I did, that with all this excess light pouring into my eyes that he would be able to see in there just fine. Silly us.

Instead, Dr. B turned off the lights in the room, tipped my chair back, held my eye wide open with one hand and shined a 1,000-watt flashlight through a magnifying glass right into my eye.

Thankfully, Dr. B came out of this with only minor shin bruises, and my pupils are finally returning to a quasi-normal size (currently “bottle cap”).

But I have my new contacts now, and if Donita is reading this, no, I will not be swimming with them.


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