“You haven’t been here since 2018,” the receptionist says when I call. “Have you seen another ophthalmologist since then?”
“No. I had other things going on.” She doesn’t need to hear about a cochlear implant in 2019 and she knows about the Covid lockdown, but I feel guilty about not taking better care of my vision. With hearing loss, I need to see well for driving and for pleasure.
“Dr. Casey has a cancellation tomorrow at 1:45.”
“So soon?” I ask. There’s a pause on the phone.
“Our next opening is in June,” the receptionist says. I feel trapped even if I don’t feel ready to face another medical exam.
“Ok, I’ll come tomorrow.” Hearing is enough to deal with, but friends have macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts. It scares me to search for new sensory problems.
I silently praise myself for regular dental visits and healthy teeth. I praise myself for getting my hearing checked at Strong Audiology in Rochester where I learned my hearing is holding steady while they cleaned my hearing aid and replaced a fragile wire. I can’t say why I put off having my vision checked, but I’m anxious about it.
The next afternoon, I drive the valley road to Guthrie Clinic in Corning. The doctor’s assistant Tiffany does the preliminaries with intense lights and eye charts as I explain my double vision and childhood eye surgeries. Her long black hair cascades over her white coat and her smile beams kindness. I breathe.
I tilt my head back while she puts in dilating drops and wait while my eyes burn and tear. Tiffany hands me a tissue.
“Please put your chin here,” Tiffany says, “and your forehead there.”
Why is my heart pounding? Have I waited too long?
There’s a knock on the door and a man enters dressed in casual clothes. It’s Dr. Casey, and he’s relaxed. I exhale again, remembering all the beauty I want to see.
“Can you read these letters? Is this clearer than that?” Dr. Casey inspects my eyes with a bright light, takes a few notes, and turns toward me. “You don’t have macular degeneration or glaucoma and the small cataract you had five years ago hasn’t changed at all. If it’s not causing problems, I wouldn’t do anything.”
“Do I need new glasses?”
“No. Your old prescription is perfect. Let’s check again in a year.”
Back in my car, I sit a while to absorb good news before texting my sons. “My hearing may be a wreck, but I can see.”
I see the moon and stars glittering in the night sky. I see a pouncing orange coyote in the field. I see yellow flowers, bumblebees, and the polka dots on a Monarch butterfly’s body.
That night, the sunset is magnificent as it often is. I walk outside and look west, grateful for every shade and color, thankful I can see.
Do you get your hearing and vision checked regularly? As I age, these visits feel more threatening than they did when I was young and didn’t have Meniere’s Disease. For a post about deciding to get a cochlear implant, see My Friend Meniere: Standing Up To Disability. For a piece about self-care after surgery, see A Healing Ritual in a Sweet Grass Bowl: Self Care After Surgery.
Dear Elaine, what good news it is that all’s well with your vision. Myself, I’ve kept the same glasses for the last six years too but that will change in the autumn when my check-up is due as I have slight blurring going on. I think can hold out for six months, we’ll see. Thankfully, I don’t suffer with any hearing issues, yet, so no tests to date. The only health tests I do dread are the cancer ones as both breast and cervical cancer run in my family. Still, it’s a relief when the tests come back clear and I can relax until I’m facing my next check-up three or five years later. Loved all your wonderful photos in this post, especially the sunset! Love and light, Deborah.
It’s great news, Deborah. I don’t have any spare sensory functions hanging around and I live in the country. Without good vision, I can’t do the simplest shopping even though I don’t need to go more than a dozen miles to the grocery store. Still, it’s too far to walk. You’d know if you had hearing issues because you’d be saying, “What? What was that? Would you say that again?” to Lin until she insisted you get a hearing check. I understand concern about medical tests when there’s a disease pattern in the family, but they also save our lives. There’s lots of dementia on my mother’s side of the family. So far, so good for me on those tests. For this blog, I put up photos of things I want to see. I’m glad you liked them. Love and spring color to you and Lin.
This is a wake up, thanks. I put off most medical tests. My mom always said that the dr’s are looking for things, they’ll find something. ( isn’t that the point I thought to myself) Don’t fix what’s not broken was a refrain. Not a great attitude, and along with her Christian Science leanings I have not learned good Dr habits.
Your love of natures details always makes me happy.
Yay for good eyes! Whew.
We made decisions, Lauren, including deciding to avoid the whole medical world. I get it, but I’m grateful for help received with my wounded hearing. A cochlear implant keeps me functioning even if my hearing is odd and tiring. Still, I can hear you–and I want to see you, too. Because of the single drug I need for Meniere’s Disease imbalance, I have to go to the doctor twice a year. It’s too much, but the price of getting a prescription for the medicine that keeps me upright. I don’t approve of seeing a doctor twice a year, but it’s a small price to pay. I want to hear you and I want to keep reasonable balance so I can prowl around in the woods or hike in the glens. Regarding vision, I want to see your smile, your paintings, and some day I hope to see your home and meet your dogs. I liked it better when you lived ten minutes away. Sending love and beautiful vistas.
Dear Elaine, you have the privilege to see, and your other senses are working fine; I am thrilled to know that. Although your hearing isn’t, I know! But we can only be thankful for what we have. Observing the beautiful sky with stars is a gift. Have a lovely day, my dear friend, and stay well.
Thank you, Aladin. I also have the privilege of health insurance and a visit with a competent doctor. I’m grateful for the beauty surrounding me and for good news from the eye doctor. I celebrated by going to a political demonstration with a friend. (There was no violence there.) May there be peace and freedom in Iran. You stay well, too.
Great news and exquisite photos Elaine!
Thank you, Harriet. I used photos of things I love to see. Nesting and courting birds are so happy this morning. I didn’t tell them the weather forecast calls for rain the next five or six days. Shhhhh…
Oh good news Elaine! I can sense your relief. I’m not especially good on doctor visits. I don’t know when last I had breast X-ray and cervical tests. Although those with a genetic history would be foolish to not have these check ups.
We also don’t have good health insurance so we pay up for doctor and dentist and other.
I can’t imagine not having good eye sight. To miss out on all that Mother Nature offers every day, and night, is a trembly sort of thought. Not being able to read? I can’t imagine it.
I was foolish not to get my eyes checked for so long since I depend on vision to help compensate for what I can’t hear. Plus I read a lot and watch nature a lot and get so much pleasure from vision. I have a few friends struggling with severe vision problems, it was time for a reality check. I hope you are well in every way. Sending love from the northern hemisphere while autumn visits your home.
What you wrote underscores the power of the white coat–and also the gratitude we feel when our auditory and visual senses check out. My hearing is bionic, but my vision has been threatened with macular degeneration. Thanks to excellent medical care, on my last visit the sight in my left eye tested at 20/30; my right eye, not so hot.
I am thankful every day for the gift of vision. I can still drive and read–and see the faces of my loved ones. Who could ask for more! 😀
Marian, I thought of you and your vision as I wrote this. I laughed when you said your hearing is bionic. I have a computer in my head (the joys of a cochlear implant), so my hearing is definitely bionic, but that doesn’t make it good hearing. I’m glad to know your sight improved in one eye, just like my word comprehension improved in the ear without the cochlear implant. I imagine my ear with a hearing aid is learning to compensate, although no one knows. May your vision hold strong and steady so you can receive all those blessings, especially seeing the smiles of loved ones.
I’m so pleased your eye check-up went well Elaine, such a relief for you. I am all too aware of eye health as both glaucoma and macular degeneration run in my family, so I get my eyes checked every year. The last time I was told one eye had improved and the other weakened – I just look at it as the universe balancing one with the other so that I can continue to walk and photograph without wearing glasses…although I do use them for driving and reading. When I look at the images you’ve included in your post, these are all the simple wonders of nature and life, it brings home to me what a glorious gift our eyesight is and how blessed we are to have it. Beltane blessings
Thank you, Lin. I’m grateful my eyes are holding steady so I can watch the wild critters or on a practical side, so I can drive. I don’t use glasses to read or for anything close, but need a slight correction for distance. With hearing loss, good vision is essential for pleasure and for safety when driving. I loved your beautiful Beltane post and enjoyed having something new and unusual to share. Others enjoyed it, too. Spring blessings as I imagine you listening for the cuckoo’s song.